Marine biodiversity assessments are used to inform us about the status of marine ecosystems. In some cases, where in-the-field data has not been collected, or is limited, assessments use a methodological approach which considers where human activities occur within the marine environment and what habitats and species are found there. This allows us to identify the area of activity which coincides with the different habitats and species. How sensitive each marine habitat and species is to the activity in question is then determined. The exposure of the habitat or species to the activities is combined with the sensitivity of the habitat or species to generate the likelihood of impact. This information can give an indication of the proportion of the habitat likely to be in good condition and the areas that are at higher risk of damage, which helps with reporting and conservation management.
The Extent of Physical Damage to Predominant and Special Habitats (BH3) is a Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) common indicator for the OSPAR maritime area. The indicator aims to help assess the current spatial extent and level of physical disturbance to the seafloor caused by human activities. The main components of the indicator are data on pressures from human activities and information on sensitivity of habitats. The specific combination of pressure and sensitivity is used to establish the overall impact (damage) on the habitat.
This indicator was used in the OSPAR Intermediate Assessment 2017 (OSPAR 2017a) and the methodology for the indicator is provided as an OSPAR Coordinated Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Programme (CEMP) Guideline document (OSPAR 2017b). A summarised version of the method and results are available in the Intermediate Assessment on the OSPAR website (OSPAR 2017a).
The Extent of Physical Damage indicator uses two types of information: distribution and sensitivity (resilience and resistance) of marine habitats; and the distribution and intensity of human activities and pressures that cause physical damage (e.g. mobile bottom gear fisheries, sediment extraction and offshore constructions), although only fisheries data have been used to date. The sensitivity and pressure information are combined to calculate the potential damage to a given seafloor habitat (OSPAR 2017a).
Up until now, the different components have been combined manually in ArcGIS in a step-wise approach. JNCC now wish to contract an expert to automate the different method steps, so that the spatial distribution of disturbance values can be calculated automatically following input of the information sources. To undertake this work, contractors will be supplied with the input data used to calculate the biodiversity indicator:
• Seafloor habitat map shapefiles – broad-scale physical habitat map: EUSeaMap (EMODnet, 2010, 2016), and more detailed habitat maps created from survey data (available at: https://www.emodnet-seabedhabitats.eu/access-data/launch-map-view