Oil in the East Shetland Basin was first discovered in 1972 and the importance of Shetland’s location to the oil industry was immediately recognised. What had initially been a community dominated by a fishing and crofting economy, suddenly experienced a drastic transformation. Between 1975 and 1981 the BP-operated oil terminal was build towards the northern end of the largest of the Shetland Islands occupying 1000 acres. Today Sullom Voe Terminal is one of the biggest oil and liquefied gas terminals in Europe. On average more than 150,000 barrels of crude oil flows via the Brent and Ninian pipelines from the oil fields in the North Sea to the Sullom Voe Terminals every day and get loaded on tankers at Sullom Voe harbour.
Figure 2: Sullom Voe Terminal (left) and a typical inlet of the region (right)
The Sullom Voe Terminal has naturally beautiful coast and sea surroundings and support a rich and diverse wildlife, which needs to be preserved. This was officially recognised in 2004 after Sullom Voe’s special geographical and biological features – which remain unspoilt due to more than thirty years of high quality marine environmental management – led to its designation as a Spacial Area of Conservation (SAC) by the European Commission. To protect this unique nature as well as to identify ecosystem service dependencies and its impacts, a demanding monitoring system is essential. Especially, exact land use and land use change maps are crucial to monitor the habitat and to define ecosystem services that are provided by the region (e.g. mussle beds, peatlands, etc.). These information can then be linked to socio-economic data in order to give an economic value to the provided ecosystem services, according to their uses such as mussel farms, fishing and recreation.