New partnership between Ørsted and ARK Nature pioneers testing the potential of rewilding principles to restore vital ocean biodiversity as we speed up the global transition to renewable energy. One initial focus is restoring shellfish reefs that are fundamental to ecological restoration in the North Sea, and to use learnings from the project to develop the best ways to scale up work globally to ensure an overall net-positive impact on nature when building offshore wind farms.
Biodiversity, our life-support system, is disappearing at an alarming rate. This urgent global crisis is deeply connected to the climate emergency. We’re rapidly running out of time on both challenges and our efforts to solve them must go hand in hand. This means finding ways for nature restoration and renewable energy infrastructure to co-exist as we look to accelerate the global green transition.
Ørsted is the global leader in offshore wind and the world’s most sustainable energy company, with an ambition to deliver renewable energy that has a net-positive biodiversity impact for all new energy projects commissioned by 2030. ARK Nature is one of the founding partners of Rewilding Europe and a pioneer of the rewilding approach to nature restoration, which has already proven effective on land. Together, ARK and Ørsted are combining this expertise to realise a shared ambition to support and nurture healthy oceans that can sustain diverse ecosystems and a healthy society.
Rasmus Errboe, Head of Region Continental Europe at Ørsted, said: “When it comes to tackling the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, there’s a real need for speed. We need urgent action – but that speed must not come at the expense of nature, and Ørsted believes it doesn’t have to. With this new collaboration, I’m excited to add to our existing, ambitious global biodiversity programme. Together with ARK, Ørsted will implement innovative new restoration projects and study how rewilding can contribute to improving the health of our oceans, and how the offshore wind sector can enhance that contribution.”
Jos Rademakers, CEO of ARK Nature, said: “ARK Nature and Ørsted are ultimately pursuing the same goal: self-sustaining, healthy oceans. We’ll aim to restore the vital natural processes and contribute to creating wind farms that have an overall positive impact on nature and humanity. And we know we have to deliver that impact as soon as we possibly can.”
Our shared vision is bold – as the offshore wind needed to tackle the climate challenge takes up more marine space, we must work to leave nature in better shape than we found it. There’s no straightforward answer yet on the best way to get there, but we do know that action and cooperation are what we need now. Pitting renewable energy and nature protection against each other is no longer tenable if we are to act with appropriate urgency to the global crises which we all face.
The partnership will start in the North Sea, where Ørsted and ARK are setting up a Marine FieldLab for rewilding. Our first step is finding the most suitable location on ecological grounds, and from there we’ll develop and implement promising rewilding measures. Importantly, the impacts will be closely studied, and what we learn will be used as we refine and develop ways to scale up positive biodiversity impact globally.
One initial focus is on restoration of shellfish reefs – reefs formed by living organisms such as oysters and mussels which act as the foundation of a healthy marine ecosystem. They provide food, shelter, and breeding grounds for other species, in addition to improving water quality and are fundamental to the restoration of the wider North Sea ecosystem. Currently there are very few places remaining in the North Sea where shellfish larvae can attach and create new reefs. Our partnership will test and develop the best ways for wind farms to provide this and support biodiversity. Once the approach has been sufficiently tested, it could potentially be applied at a larger scale around the world.
Rewilding: what is it, and why take it to the sea?
Rewilding involves taking an ecosystem-wide view and creating conditions in which nature can recover and thrive, in the long-term. The approach has never before been trialled at scale in the marine environment where the challenge is particularly acute. The decline in marine biodiversity, driven in large part by global warming, is weakening the ocean’s role as a key global climate regulator. At the same time, the unprecedented expansion in offshore wind infrastructure – which is needed to halt global heating – means more interaction with the natural world we ultimately seek to protect.