Draft Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Renewable Energy in Scottish Waters- Strategic Environmental Assessment: Environmental Report and Appendix A

This Environmental Report documents the results of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) which is an assessment of the effects of the plans on relevant environmental receptors. In

this assessment the effects of the plan on the following have been

5 Environmental Baseline

5.1 Background

5.1.1 The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 Schedule 3 requires that the Environmental Report includes a description of the relevant aspects of the current state of the environment and the likely evolution thereof without implementation of the Plan. This section describes the environmental context within which the draft plans will operate and the key strategic issues that this context imposes on the plans. The baseline summary presented below represents the current key issues relating to the SEA topic areas and to be considered in the assessment. More detailed information on specific constraints relating to specific Draft Plan Options within each region (South West, West, North West, North and North East) is set out in greater detail within Appendix B. The headline baseline information relating to each Draft Plan Option is also included in Appendix D.

5.2 Baseline Summaries

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

5.2.1 Six broad habitats are found in Scottish waters: intertidal rock, intertidal sediment, subtidal rock, shallow subtidal sediments, shelf subtidal sediments and deep-sea habitats. Scotland's seas support a great number of species between these habitats.

5.2.2 Key pressures to species and habitats include climate change, development, dredging, pollution, marine litter, fishing, invasive non-native species, other coastal and marine users ( e.g. oil and gas, aquaculture, recreation), and the vulnerability of marine and coastal species and habitats to these pressures. Species and habitats considered to be vulnerable to these pressures include shoreline and tidal habitats, coral reefs and mudflats, each of which support a wide range of species such as snails, clams, mussels and oysters, bony fish, shellfish, cetaceans ( i.e. whales, dolphins and porpoises), elasmobranchs ( i.e. sharks, skates and rays), seals, otters and many types of birds.

5.2.3 As such Scotland has a number of Marine and coastal protected sites. There are forty coastal and offshore marine SACs, and one candidate Special Area of Conservation (c SAC), covering several habitat types (including sandbanks, sea caves, estuaries, mudflats, coastal lagoons, shallow inlets and bays and reefs) and several species (including otter, bottlenose dolphin, grey seal and harbour seal, Atlantic salmon and pearl mussel) [19] . Beyond Scotland there are a number of other European sites designated for mobile species, and are linked to the presence of major bird migration routes and bird feeding, breeding and roosting areas.

5.2.4 There are also many areas that are of international importance for bird species (seabirds, waders, ducks, geese and swans) including 58 Special Protection Areas ( SPAs) that have marine or coastal components [20] .

5.2.5 Scottish Ministers are committed to setting up a network of ecologically coherent MPAs to protect features of conservation importance in both inshore and offshore waters adjacent to Scotland.

5.2.6 Sites of Special Scientific Interest ( SSSI) underpin international nature conservation designations, such as SACs and SPAs, and will contribute to the development of Scotland's MPA network [21] . Scotland's SSSI network is primarily terrestrial, as its extent is to the mean low water spring tide, but there are 56 in Scotland which have some intertidal and/or seal interests [22] . The need to protect, and, where possible, improve the status of the numerous internationally and nationally designated conservation sites within Scottish Territorial Waters is a key issue.

Population and Human Health

5.2.7 There is an east - west split in the rural characteristics of coastal communities, with the islands, north and west coasts typically having smaller populations and experiencing greater distances to services. Communities on the west coast and islands typically have a greater reliance on marine businesses and related industries as part of their local economy.

5.2.8 The waters around Scotland are used for a variety of industrial and recreational activities including salmon and sea trout fisheries, recreational sea angling, sailing, cruising, bathing and recreational tourism. Coastal recreation opportunities make an important contribution to human health as well as coastal economies. Offshore energy generation could interfere with existing recreational activities.

5.2.9 The main risks to human health in the marine environment are from accidents as a result of collisions of vessels with each other and with any offshore structures which could impact on the risks of accidents and related mortality rates. Additionally the health benefits of undertaking recreational activities could be compromised if activity is displaced or discontinued.

Water and the Marine Environment

5.2.10 Marine water resources support important industries including fishing, oil and gas industry and renewable power generation. In very simple terms the offshore and coastal water circulation is northwards on the west coast (Scottish Coastal Current) and southerly in the North Sea [23] .

5.2.11 The tidal range varies around the Scottish coastline with a low tidal range at Shetland and off Kintyre and high tidal ranges at the heads of the Firths ( e.g. up to 7m in the Solway Firth).

5.2.12 Although coastal waters are generally classified as being of good or better status under the Water Framework Directive, poorer quality waters are found in areas such as the Firth of Forth and Firth of Clyde.

5.2.13 The key risks to the quality of the water environment are from contamination as a result of marine activities such as the use of anti-fouling paint, pollution from oil spillage and sewage, and pollution of coastal waters resulting from activities on land, in particular from agricultural activities.

5.2.14 Polluted waters can have detrimental impacts on habitats and species, on recreational tourism ( e.g. bathing) and aquaculture (particularly shellfish), all of which require high water quality.

Climatic Factors

5.2.15 In the context of the marine environment, climate change has been predicted to lead to an increase in water temperatures, rise in sea levels, changes in wave heights and changes to our coastlines. Changing ocean acidity, salinity, rising sea temperatures and rising sea levels, as a result of climate change, can impact on marine ecosystems.

5.2.16 A number of renewable energy targets have been set in Scotland. The target relevant to this assessment is for renewable sources of energy to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland's gross annual electricity consumption by 2020, with an interim target of 50% by 2015.

5.2.17 The Scottish Government is committed to adapting to the impacts of climate change that Scotland is already expecting. The natural marine environment is expected to change, and adaptation will be required to minimise impacts and potential loss of species and habitats.

Marine Geology and Coastal Processes

5.2.18 In general, the marine sediments around Scotland are sandy or gravelly and originate from deposits during the Quaternary glaciation. Muddy sediments are located principally near-shore or if further offshore in depressions on the sea floor where currents may be relatively weak.

5.2.19 Data from the British Geological Society ( BGS) demonstrates that Scottish waters display a wide range of seabed habitats, ranging from scoured rock or coarse sediment to muddy gravel or fine sand. However, there is a high degree of variability between the coarseness of the substrate, with some patches of uniformity also identified ( e.g. the sandy extents in the central North Sea, muddy sand in the North Sea and rocky outcrops to the west of Lewis). Marine activities can impact on seabed sediments and affect natural processes and their ability to support habitats and species.

5.2.20 The bathymetry of Scottish waters shows a sharp distinction between the east and west coasts. The east coast bathymetry presents mostly uniform depths and shallow inclines interspersed with localised trenches while the seabed off Scotland's west coast shelves steeply away from the coast, and deep waters occur relatively close to the land. Appendix B contains further information on spatial bathymetry and seabed characteristics for each of the regions.

5.2.21 Much of the Scottish landscape and coastline continues to change through coastal processes such as wave action, sediment movement, erosion and accretion [24] . There is potential for increased vulnerability of coastal areas from changes in coastal processes related to coastal and marine activities. SSSI designated for their geological importance are located around the coast and can be impacted upon by changes in coastal processes.

Historic Environment

5.2.22 A wide range of historic built and archaeological sites can be found on the foreshore and seabed ranging from the remains of ships and aircraft lost at sea, to valued harbours, lighthouses and other structures at the coastal fringe. There is the potential for direct adverse impacts to marine and coastal archaeology from the siting and operation of prospective offshore renewables developments and associated infrastructure activities.

5.2.23 It is estimated that there are also 38,000 historic and unprotected sites of interest around Scotland's coast including St. Kilda and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Sites ( WHS), numerous scheduled monuments, gardens and designed landscapes, and listed buildings including lighthouses. For these sites, the sea can be an integral part of their setting and a key element in how they are experienced, understood and appreciated. As well as visual effects to their settings, many coastal historic assets are sensitive to impacts from changes in coastal processes and increased erosion exacerbated by offshore development.

5.2.24 Many coastal and marine historic environment assets are protected by designations, but there are also gaps in knowledge regarding the location of submerged marine archaeological remains. Extensive coastal and marine areas around the Orkney and Shetland Islands, the East and North West coasts of Lewis, and the coastal regions of North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist have been identified as potentially having submerged archaeology of interest.

Landscape and Seascape

5.2.25 There are a large number of coastal landscape designations, some with marine components. For example twenty seven of Scotland's National Scenic Areas ( NSAs) are located within or adjacent to coastal areas and include views of transitional or coastal waters. A number of local authorities have also identified local landscape designations. Many of these local designations lie in coastal locations particularly in the Northern and Western Isles, and along the south-western, western, north-western and northern coastlines of the Scottish mainland.

5.2.26 Areas of 'relative wildness' in Scotland have been identified through a process involving the consideration of the perceived naturalness of the land cover, the ruggedness of the terrain, remoteness from public roads or ferries, and the visible lack of buildings, roads, pylons and other modern artefacts. High levels of wildness are attributed to coastal areas on Scotland's north-west coast and in the Western Isles in particular. Areas of 'core wild land' have also been identified. Some of these have coastal components.

5.2.27 The main pressures on Scotland's coastal landscapes and seascapes are from coastal and marine development and the anticipated effects of climate change. Valued coastal landscapes are vulnerable to visual impacts from offshore development as a result of high landscape quality, natural character and wildness. In particular there is potential for cumulative impacts of onshore and offshore developments on landscape and seascape character and scenic value. Changes to coastal processes, specifically coastal erosion and accretion, also have the potential to alter these coastal landscapes and seascapes.

5.3 Likely Future Evolution of the Baseline

5.3.1 The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires consideration of the likely future evolution of the environment without the plans to assist in the identification of effects. The following section sets out the potential for change in the baseline. It does not specifically take into account the potential effects of other marine projects, as the majority of projects are yet to complete the licensing process. However, it is reasonable to assume some devices promoted outside of the current plans would be constructed, although assumptions would have to be made on the locations of projects. Therefore, whilst planned projects will be brought into the in-combination assessment, detailed later in this report, this section will simply consider changes to the current baseline. It will then seek to think in the broadest terms how the baseline evolution would be affected by some level of marine development.

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

5.3.2 The impacts of physical changes can be seen across elements of marine ecosystems. The key pressures for biodiversity include climatic factors and more specific man-made pressures ( i.e. some fishing activities, offshore development and transport of non-native species). However, many of the trends identified in the environmental baseline are likely to be independent of the plan development process and, to a degree, offshore renewables development.

5.3.3 It is considered that changes to marine biodiversity from climate change are already occurring. Some species, such as plankton, fish and some intertidal species, are considered to demonstrate rapid responses to alterations in climate. For example, to the east of Scotland the rate at which the biogeographic limits of southern intertidal species are extending northwards and eastwards towards the colder North Sea is up to 50 km per decade far exceeding the global average of 6.1 km per decade in terrestrial systems. The MarClim project has concluded that differential rates of range extensions and contractions are likely to result in a short term increase in biodiversity on rocky shores close to the biogeographic boundaries. However, as the climate continues to warm, biodiversity is likely to return to previous levels as northern species ranges retract to be replaced by southern species, resulting in different species compositions [25] .

5.3.4 Recent biodiversity trends vary markedly by habitat and species, and in many cases, by region. In general terms, an overall trend of deterioration has been observed for some marine and coastal habitats, and declines observed for certain species [26] . For example, shallow and shelf subtidal sediment habitats have been adversely impacted by pressures such as fishing activities affecting large areas of seabed, and localised effects from activities such as aquaculture [27] . Some benthic Priority Marine Feature ( PMF) species, for example sea grass beds and ocean quahog populations, are also considered to have experienced populations declines in recent years, with many more considered to be of scarce and vulnerable status ( e.g. blue mussel beds, flame shell beds, maerl beds, etc.) [28] .

5.3.5 Other PMF species, including elasmobranchs ( e.g. Basking sharks, Blue shark, Common skate and Spiny dogfish) and harbour seals [29] , are also considered to have depleted populations with downward trends largely due to man-made pressures, reflected in many cases by their 'vulnerable' or lower status on the International Union for Conservation of Nature ( IUCN) Red List [30] . However, others such as grey seal populations are considered to be in improving condition, having experienced population recoveries in many parts of Scotland, albeit with reductions in pup production in recent years in some areas ( e.g. Outer Hebrides and Shetland) [31] .

5.3.6 Populations of many seabird and fish species are also experiencing long-term trends of decline [32] , and in the absence of the plan, are considered likely to continue to do so without intervention. Many species, such as the various cetacean species either based in or frequenting Scottish waters are considered to be in good or moderate condition, albeit with a high degree of uncertainty due largely to deficiencies in data for some species [33] .

5.3.7 Current pressures such as climatic factors and fishing activities are expected to continue to exert a major influence on future trends in biodiversity, both directly and in-directly. However, the positive trend of increasing ambition for biodiversity protection through mechanisms such as the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity ("Aichi Targets" for 2020) [34] , the development of Marine Protected Areas and potential for future expansion of SPA designations, has the potential to increase protection for designated and vulnerable species. This will, in turn, help to promote stronger biodiversity.

5.3.8 Even in the absence of the plan, further offshore renewables development would be anticipated in the future, albeit without the spatial context that the strategic level plans provide. As such, there is a degree of uncertainty relating to potential environmental interactions with this future development, and hence uncertainty relating to effects upon the future evolution of the environmental baseline. This SEA explores the potential for such interactions through the consideration of these trends.

Population and Human Health

5.3.9 The volume of vessel traffic travelling in or through Scottish waters and the broad routes taken along shipping lanes are primarily driven by commercial factors. The largest sectors responsible for shipping movements are shipping, fishing, recreational, and the oil and gas sectors, and these are largely independent of the plans for marine renewable energy. There are declining trends in Scotland's fishing fleet due in part to economies of scale and financial pressures [35] . The Scottish tourism industry has ambitions for further growth and coupled with increasing trends for tourism day visits and visits to of outdoor areas in Scotland [36] there is a potential for an increase in vessel movement in this sector. Furthermore recent increases in investment in the oil and gas sector may see continued activity and vessel movement [37] .

5.3.10 The continued development of offshore renewables would be anticipated in the future in the absence of the plan, albeit without the spatial context that the strategic level plans provide. Whilst growth in this industry may present an increase in risk of incidents such as collisions and groundings, due to an increase in vessels in some regions of Scottish waters, there is a degree of uncertainty relating to effects on the future evolution of the baseline. This SEA explores the potential for human health interactions associated with the expected growth of the offshore renewables development industry.

Water and the Marine Environment

5.3.11 Climate change pressures have played a key role in changing Scotland's marine water quality, with effects such as acidification and increasing sea temperatures having already been demonstrated on Scotland's coastal and marine environments [38] . Over the last three decades, sea-surface temperatures around the UK coast have also risen by approximately 0.7ºC [39] following similar trends in the wider North Sea and North Atlantic. At the same time, seas are becoming more acidic, particularly those to the north and west of Scotland [40] . Sea levels around the y rose by about 1 mm/year in the 20th century (corrected for land movement), although it is estimated that recent increases have been higher than this [41] . Projections from the UK Climate Impacts Programme 2009 ( UKCIP09) model estimates further rises of between 12 and 76 cm by 2095, with lower probability scenarios suggesting this rise could be even greater [42] .

5.3.12 At present, Scotland's coastal and transitional waters are primarily of good or higher classification [43] . The implementation of programmes, such as River Basin Management Planning ( RBMP) and Bathing Water initiatives developed in accordance with the Water Framework and Bathing Waters Directives respectively [44] , have the potential to continue to build on the water quality improvements already made [45],[46] via targeting downgraded waterbodies and changing land and water management practices in both the onshore and offshore environments.

5.3.13 These trends are largely independent of the plan and, to a degree, offshore renewables development. With the continued development of offshore renewables that would be anticipated in the future in the absence of the plans, these pressures are unlikely to significantly alter. There could be an increased risk of contamination or pollution events associated with installation and operation of future developments, there is a degree of uncertainty regarding any potential effects on the future evolution of the baseline. This SEA explores the potential for effects on water quality associated with the expected growth of the offshore renewables development industry.

Climatic Factors

5.3.14 The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment states that there will be more frequent flooding arising from more frequent and intense rainfall, and increases in the frequency of extreme weather events ( i.e. storms and flooding). Associated changes to sea levels, increased wave height and storm surges are predicted, with the potential for serious repercussions for Scotland's marine and coastal environments, and the water quality, sediment processes and biodiversity they contain [47] .

5.3.15 Even in the absence of the plan, further offshore renewables development would be anticipated in the future, albeit without the spatial context that the strategic level plans provide. Whilst increases in renewable energy generation in Scotland are likely to reduce greenhouse gas ( GHG) emissions and contribute to adaptation to climate change, it is unlikely to have a significant influence over the effects of climate change at a global level.

Marine Geology and Coastal Processes

5.3.16 The environmental baseline, with respect to marine geology and sediments, is ever-changing, even in the absence of human influences. An estimated 12% of Scotland's coastline is subject to erosion [48] , and this is likely to increase in future with likely increases in sea level, storm surges and coastal flooding.

5.3.17 While varying markedly by region and habitat type, a general deterioration in marine and coastal habitats has been observed and attributed in part to man-made pressures on benthic habitats ( e.g. some fishing activities). Reductions in hazardous contamination of water in Scotland's coastal and near-shore marine areas has been observed over time, and are now considered to be low, having been subject to controls [49] .

5.3.18 Even in the absence of the plan, further offshore renewables development would be anticipated in the future, albeit without the spatial context that the strategic level plans provide. Future development of any marine infrastructure may present an additional source of impacts to the seabed and to coastal processes, due to installation activities and presence on the seabed. Loss of benthic habitat within the footprint of any development and increased risk of contamination or pollution events during installation are the potential risks. This SEA explores the potential for effects associated with the expected growth of the offshore renewables development industry.

Historic Environment

5.3.19 While far less is known about Scotland's marine cultural heritage than about sites on land, the development of new detection methods and mapping activities are improving the study of submerged and offshore sites. Such techniques and technologies are likely to further aid the discovery of new archaeological or historic sites in the future, both on land and in the marine and coastal environments.

5.3.20 Historic sites have become under increasing pressure in recent times. Impacts ranging from structural effects on coastal buildings and erosional effects identified have been identified by coastal monitoring programmes such as Shorewatch managed by Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion ( SCAPE) [50] . These pressures are likely to remain a major influence on the historic environment in the foreseeable future, and may be potentially exacerbated with the predicted effects of climate change ( i.e. sea level rise, increased intensity of weather events, erosion and risk of flooding, etc.).

5.3.21 The recent increasing trend in visitor numbers to historic sites is likely to continue, although access too many submerged sites are likely to remain limited to relatively few people [51] . While further increases in visitor pressures may adversely affect some terrestrial coastal heritage sites. Sites such as Skara-Brae in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney WHS will, however, continue to be actively managed through the adoption of individual site management plans and government and agency commitments, to minimise the risk of impacts from visitor disturbance and erosion.

5.3.22 It is reasonable to assume continued development of offshore renewables even in the absence of the plans. Whilst offshore development may present an additional risk to historic sites in localised areas of the seabed and coastline due to their placement and presence on the seabed and in the water column, there is a degree of uncertainty in the effect on the future evolution of the baseline. This SEA explores the potential for effects associated with the expected growth of the offshore renewables development industry.

Landscape and Seascape

5.3.23 Whilst the use of Scotland's coastal and marine areas has progressively changed over time, the emergence of new industries, such as marine tourism, finfish and shellfish aquaculture, alongside more established industries ( e.g. commercial fishing and shipping), may result in changes to seascape and the number of people potentially affected by change within the marine environment As such, there is a degree of uncertainty in accurately predicting the extent of such development in the future, and any associated effects on the future evolution of the baseline.

5.3.24 There is a potential for cumulative landscape/seascape effects from coastal and marine development, and continued industrial and urban expansion. Seascape changes from closing some North Sea oil and gas installations and the development of new fields is likely, although onshore impacts are minimal.

5.3.25 Any changes to landscapes and seascapes from marine development promoted outside of these plans, could impact on other marine users, particularly in the tourism and recreation sectors. This SEA explores the potential for effects associated with the expected growth of the offshore renewables development industry.


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