Assessing the sensitivity of Sabellaria spinulosa to pressures associated with marine activities.

Gibb, N, Tillin, HM, Pearce, B and Tyler-Walters, H 2014 Assessing the sensitivity of Sabellaria spinulosa to pressures associated with marine activities.. Peterborough, JNCC, 67pp. (UNSPECIFIED)


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The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) commissioned this project to generate an improved understanding of the sensitivities of Sabellaria spinulosa reefs based on the OSPAR habitat definition. This work aimed to provide an evidence base to facilitate and support management advice for Marine Protected Areas, development of UK marine monitoring and assessment, and conservation advice to offshore marine industries. The OSPAR list of threatened and declining species and habitats refers to subtidal S. spinulosa reefs on hard or mixed substratum. S. spinulosa may also occur as thin crusts or individual worms but these are not the focus of conservation. The purpose of this project was to produce sensitivity assessments with supporting evidence for S. spinulosa reefs, clearly documenting the evidence behind the assessments and the confidence in these assessments. Sixteen pressures, falling in five categories - biological, hydrological, physical damage, physical loss, and pollution and other chemical changes - were assessed in this report. To develop each sensitivity assessment, the resistance and resilience of the key elements of the habitat were assessed against the pressure benchmark using the available evidence. The benchmarks were designed to provide a ‘standard’ level of pressure against which to assess sensitivity. The highest sensitivity (‘medium’) was recorded for physical pressures which directly impact the reefs including: • habitat structure changes – removal of substratum; • abrasion and penetration and sub-surface disturbance; • physical loss of habitat and change to habitat; and • siltation rate changes including and smothering. The report found that no evidence for differences in the sensitivity of the three EUNIS S. spinulosa biotopes that comprise the OSPAR definition. However, this evidence review has identified significant information gaps regarding sensitivity, ecological interactions with other species and resilience. No clear difference in resilience was established across the OSPAR S. spinulosa biotopes that were assessed in this report. Using a clearly documented, evidence based approach to create sensitivity assessments allows the assessment and any subsequent decision making or management plans to be readily communicated, transparent and justifiable. The assessments can be replicated and updated where new evidence becomes available ensuring the longevity of the sensitivity assessment tool. Finally, as S. spinulosa habitats may also contribute to ecosystem function and the delivery of ecosystem services, understanding the sensitivity of these biotopes may also support assessment and management in regard to these. Whatever objective measures are applied to data to assess sensitivity, the final sensitivity assessment is indicative. The evidence, the benchmarks, the confidence in the assessments and the limitations of the process, require a sense-check by experienced marine ecologists before the outcome is used in management decisions.

Item Type: Publication - Report (UNSPECIFIED)
Additional Keywords: Ross worm, reefs, sensitivity
Subjects: Conservation
Ecology and Environment
Marine Sciences
Divisions: Marine Biological Association of the UK > Other (MBA)
Marine Biological Association of the UK > Data & Information
Depositing User: Dr Harvey Tyler-Walters
Date made live: 08 Sep 2015 13:23
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2024 17:03

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