The potential use of mapped extent and distribution of habitats as indicators of Good Environmental Status (GES)

Frost, MT, Sanderson, WG, Vina-Herbon, C and Lowe, RJ 2013 The potential use of mapped extent and distribution of habitats as indicators of Good Environmental Status (GES). Marine Biological Association, 61pp. (UNSPECIFIED)


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The Healthy and Biologically Diverse Seas Evidence Group (HBDSEG) has been tasked with providing the technical advice for the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) with respect to descriptors linked to biodiversity. A workshop was held in London to address one of the Research and Development (R&D) proposals entitled: ‘Mapping the extent and distribution of habitats using acoustic and remote techniques, relevant to indicators for area/extent/habitat loss.’ The aim of the workshop was to identify, define and assess the feasibility of potential indicators of benthic habitat distribution and extent, and identify the R&D work which could be required to fully develop these indicators. The main points that came out of the workshop were: (i) There are many technical aspects of marine habitat mapping that still need to be resolved if cost-effective spatial indicators are to be developed. Many of the technical aspects that need addressing surround issues of consistency, confidence and repeatability. These areas should be tackled by the JNCC Habitat Mapping and Classification Working Group and the HBDSEG Seabed Mapping Working Group. (ii) There is a need for benthic ecologists (through the HBDSEG Benthic Habitats Subgroup and the JNCC Marine Indicators Group) to finalise the list of habitats for which extent and/or distribution indicators should be considered for development, building upon the recommendations from this report. When reviewing the list of indicators, benthic habitats could also be distinguished into those habitats that are defined/determined primarily by physical parameters (although including biological assemblages) (e.g. subtidal shallow sand) and those defined primarily by their biological assemblage (e.g. seagrass beds). This distinction is important as some anthropogenic pressures may influence the biological component of the ecosystem despite not having a quantifiable effect on the physical habitat distribution/extent. (iii) The scale and variety of UK benthic habitats makes any attempt to undertake comprehensive direct mapping exercises prohibitively expensive (especially where there is a need for repeat surveys for assessment). There is a clear need therefore to develop a risk-based approach that uses indirect indicators (e.g. modelling), such as habitats at risk from pressures caused by current human activities, to develop priorities for information gathering. The next steps that came out of the workshop were: (i) A combined approach should be developed by the JNCC Marine Indicators Group together with the HBDSEG Benthic Habitats Subgroup, which will compile and ultimately synthesise all the criteria used by the three different groups from the workshop. The agreed combined approach will be used to undertake a final review of the habitats considered during the workshop, and to evaluate any remaining habitats in order to produce a list of habitats for indicator development for which extent and/or distribution indicators could be appropriate. (ii) The points of advice raised at this workshop, alongside the combined approach aforementioned, and the final list of habitats for extent and/or distribution indicator development will be used to develop a prioritised list of actions to inform the next round of R&D proposals for benthic habitat indicator development in 2014. This will be done through technical discussions within JNCC and the relevant HBDSEG Subgroups. The preparation of recommendations by these groups should take into account existing work programmes, and consider the limited resources available to undertake any further R&D work.

Item Type: Publication - Report (UNSPECIFIED)
Divisions: Marine Biological Association of the UK > Other (MBA)
Depositing User: Dr Matthew Frost
Date made live: 22 Sep 2015 09:45
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2024 16:57

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