Ørsted and WWF embark on marine restoration project in the Danish North Sea to contribute to ocean biodiversity

The marine restoration project ‘BioReef’ aims to establish one or more biogenic reefs of European flat oysters and horse mussels in Danish waters. The project is part of the global partnership between Ørsted and WWF to advance offshore wind with a net-positive impact on the ocean.  
European flat oysters in the lab. Example of one oyster broodstock of 15 animals used to produce oyster larvae.
European flat oysters in the lab. Example of one oyster broodstock of 15 animals used to produce oyster larvae.

Over the last century, there has been a drastic decrease in the number and quality of biogenic reefs in the North Sea – with different species being affected by disease, overfishing, climate change, or changes to the water quality.  

In Danish waters, biogenic reefs are created by bivalves such as mussels or oysters. These species can form biogenic reefs consisting of living animals and empty shells from bivalves. 

The BioReef project aims to promote the recovery of these once common biogenic reefs of European flat oysters and horse mussels in the wild waters of the Danish North Sea to support healthy marine ecosystems.

Ørsted and WWF are developing and carrying out this joint project in close collaboration with the Technical University of Denmark’s Institute of Aquatic Resources, DTU Aqua, which serves as the project’s scientific partner. 

DTU Aqua’s large-scale hatchery and experimental nursery for initial grow-out in northern Denmark are central to the production and deployment of European flat oysters and horse mussels for the BioReef project. The work in the hatchery will lead to protocols that can be implemented elsewhere to produce seed for similar marine restoration efforts. 

In addition to finding new innovative methods for the establishment of reefs, the BioReef project will not only lead to restoration of biogenic reefs, but also to peer-reviewed scientific papers, protocols, and methods that can be applied in restoration projects around the world.

The solutions delivered through the BioReef project will support both Ørsted’s ambition that all renewable energy projects it commissions from 2030 onwards should deliver a net-positive biodiversity impact and WWF’s clear call to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. 

Ingrid Reumert, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Stakeholder Relations at Ørsted, says: 
“This is an exciting project – it will provide ecosystem services to the marine environment, increase biodiversity, and improve water quality in the North Sea. Together with WWF, we want to set a new standard for biodiversity enhancement in offshore wind development and further marine nature protection and restoration, as well as encourage others to join us in creating a net-positive impact on ocean biodiversity.”

Bo Øksnebjerg, Secretary General, WWF Denmark, says: 
“It’s essential that we solve both the climate and the biodiversity crisis. Therefore, we must speed up the development of new and innovative solutions for coexistence of renewable energy and marine nature within the wind farms as well as restore and protect marine nature in the oceans away from the wind farms. Our partnership with Ørsted does exactly that. Our intention is to take these solutions to a global scale. Therefore, we’ll share our experiences and knowledge from our joint nature restoration project in the North Sea with the rest of the world."

Pernille Nielsen, Project Leader and Senior Researcher for Coastal Ecology at DTU Aqua, says: 
“Establishing biogenic reefs with horse mussels hasn’t been attempted at scale in the North Sea. To succeed, viable horse mussel seeds of a certain size must be produced to get a critical number of individuals that can be deployed. DTU Aqua has in-depth knowledge and expertise in both hatchery production and distribution of bivalves in inner Danish waters, which is fundamental for establishing the biogenic reef in the BioReef project.”

About biogenic reefs
Biogenic reefs are reefs formed by living organisms. Most people are familiar with the colourful coral reefs of the tropics, but other animals such as oysters and horse mussels can also form biogenic reefs. 

Once established, biogenic reefs provide food and shelter for other marine species, as well as surfaces for macroalgae and other organisms that require hard substrate to attach to. All biogenic reefs are a crucial part of marine ecosystems.

Project milestones 
2023: Collection of brood stock and screening of locations with historic biogenic reefs in Danish waters. 

2024: Site selection for the location of the biogenic reef(s) in the Danish North Sea. Development of hatchery protocols and first grow-out testing, i.e., testing of small reefs in coastal waters.

2025-26: Further testing in the hatchery and at nearshore grow-out locations.

2027: Deployment of reef(s) in the Danish North Sea.

What does net-positive biodiversity impact mean? 
Having a net-positive biodiversity impact means making a measurable contribution that improves biodiversity overall and leaves nature in better shape than before. This means not just minimising and mitigating unavoidable impacts but going even further to enhance biodiversity and restore ecosystems that are already under threat from climate change and biodiversity loss.

About the partnership between Ørsted and WWF 
The BioReef marine restoration project is an essential part of a five-year partnership between WWF and Ørsted. The partnership was launched in October 2022, and the partners are exploring how to support a rapid transition to renewable energy, while addressing the global biodiversity crisis. 

Learn more about the partnership at www.orsted.com/WWF and www.panda.org/orsted.

For further information, please contact:

Ørsted Media Relations
Thor Wilkens
Senior Media Advisor, Ørsted 
+45 99 55 44 07

WWF Denmark Media Relations
Mai-Britt Noe
Head of Press & Media, WWF Denmark
+45 28 93 63 28

About WWF
WWF is an independent conservation organisation with over 30 million followers and a global network active in nearly 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Learn more about WWF at www.wwf.org and www.wwf.dk.

About Ørsted
The Ørsted vision is a world that runs entirely on green energy. Ørsted develops, constructs, and operates offshore and onshore wind farms, solar farms, energy storage facilities, renewable hydrogen and green fuels facilities, and bioenergy plants. Ørsted is recognised on the CDP Climate Change A List as a global leader on climate action and was the first energy company in the world to have its science-based net-zero emissions target validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Headquartered in Denmark, Ørsted employs approx. 8,000 people. Ørsted's shares are listed on Nasdaq Copenhagen (Orsted). In 2022, the group's revenue was DKK 132.3 billion (EUR 17.8 billion). Visit orsted.com or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. 

About DTU Aqua
DTU Aqua is an institute at the Technical University of Denmark. It is the scientific partner in the BioReef restoration project as well as the partner dedicated to the development of an upscaled seed production for deployment of the reefs. DTU Aqua is home to both a state-of-the art, compartmentalised, and multi-use hatchery designed to accommodate strict biosecurity measures and a nursery for initial grow out. It also has additional grow out facilities in the waters of the Limfjord in northern Denmark, which are used to test the survival of young individuals under real conditions. Read more at http://www.aqua.dtu.dk/ 

Please go to this link.

Photo 1: 
Text: Camille Saurel, Senior Researcher at the Technical University of Denmark’s Institute of Aquatic Resources, DTU Aqua, inspects microalgae bags produced to feed the oysters.

Photo 2:
Text: European flat oysters in the lab. Example of one oyster broodstock of 15 animals used to produce oyster larvae.

Photo 3:
Text: Horse mussels broodstock are being kept together in tanks before experimentation.

You can read more here.