Recovery at Morvin: SERPENT final report

Gates, A.R. ORCID:; Jones, D.O.B.. 2010 Recovery at Morvin: SERPENT final report. Southampton, UK, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, 74pp. (National Oceanography Centre Southampton Research and Consultancy Report 86)

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Recovery from disturbance is poorly understood in deep water, but the extent of anthropogenic impacts is becoming increasingly well documented. We used Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) to visually assess the change in benthic habitat after exploratory hydrocarbon drilling disturbance around the Morvin well located at 380m depth in the Norwegian Sea. An ROV, launched directly from the rig drilling the well in 2006 was used to carry out video transects around the well before drilling and immediately after. On a return to the site three years after disturbance a larger survey was conducted with a ship-launched ROV in 2009. Transects were repeated at the disturbed area and random background transects were taken. Visible drill cuttings were mapped for each survey, and positions and counts of epibenthic invertebrate megafauna were determined, revealing a fauna dominated by Cnidaria (45% of total observations) and Porifera (33%). Immediately after disturbance a visible cuttings pile extended to over 100m from the well and megafaunal density was significantly reduced (0.07 individuals m-2) in comparison to pre-drill data (0.23 ind. m-2). Three years later the visible extent of the cuttings pile had reduced in size, reaching 60m from the well and considerably less in some headings. In comparison to background transects (0.21 ind. m-2), megafaunal density was significantly reduced on the remaining cuttings (0.04m-2), but beyond the visible disturbance there was no significant difference (0.15m-2). The investigation at this site shows a return to background densities of megafaunal organisms over a large extent of the area previously disturbed. However a central area, where the initial cuttings pile was deepest, demonstrated reduced sessile megafaunal density which persisted three years after disturbance. Elevated Barium concentration and reduced sediment grain size suggests persistence of disturbance beyond the remaining visibly impacted area which may result in changes to the infaunal communities undetectable by ROV video survey.

Item Type: Publication - Report (Other)
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Deposited at the authors request
Date made live: 25 Jul 2011 15:55 +0 (UTC)

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