According to an international understanding, all offshore oil rigs, wind turbines and other structures must be removed from the environment once they're no longer functional. A new study, however, claims that it might be better for marine life if such decommissioned installations just stayed put.

Typically, structures such as oil rigs remain operational for at least 20 to 30 years. During that time, an increasing number of marine plants and animals adhere to their underwater pilings, pipes and other parts, or take shelter amongst them. Larger animals are drawn in to feed upon those organisms, creating a whole ecosystem.

When the structures are dismantled and taken away, those ecosystems vanish.

With that in mind, an international group of approximately 30 scientists is now suggesting that the decision to unquestioningly remove all such structures should be reconsidered – instead, authorities could determine if it were best to leave or remove structures on a case-by-case basis. Along with continuing to provide the local marine life with a home, leaving the installations alone would also save the money that would otherwise be spent on tearing them down.

"By leaving the rig in place, we may ensure greater biodiversity in the sea," says senior researcher Jonas Teilmann, of Denmark's Aarhus University. "The physical structures also ensure that the areas will not be trawled. The heavy trawls turn the seabed into a uniform desert with poor biodiversity."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

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