A First Integration of Anthropogenic Underwater Noise Pollution Impacts on Marine Ecosystems in an LCA Framework - The case of cetaceans in the North Sea
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The world s oceans provide many ecosystem services that are of high importance to human well-being. A variety of human activities, however, poses threats on the quality of the marine ecosystems. Due to the dependence of marine animals on sound for their survival, the noise pollution from these human activities has been of growing concern. Life cycle assessment (LCA) can play a role in the understanding of how potential environmental impacts are related to industrial processes, however, noise pollution has not yet been taken into account. This master thesis presents a first approach for the integration of noise pollution impacts on marine ecosystems into the LCA framework. Noise pollution has a large variety of impact pathways, but as a starting point the impacts from avoidance behaviour on cetaceans due to pile-driving during the construction of offshore windfarms in the North Sea were assessed. The approach of regarding the impact of avoidance behaviour as a temporary loss of habitat, and assuming a temporary loss of all individuals within that habitat subsequently, was verified with an existing model that assessed the population effects on the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) from noise pollution in the North Sea. The characterization factor was then expanded by applying it to other cetacean species, and tested in a case-study. The total impact of noise pollution was found to be in the same order of magnitude as other impact categories (besides climate change) from the construction of an offshore windfarm. Although there are still many improvements to be made to this approach, it provides a basis for the implementation of noise pollution impacts in an LCA framework, and has potential to be applied to other impact pathways as well.