State of the Art Theme 7

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State of the Art overview; Theme 7: Restoration and preservation of coastal biodiversity

Introduction

The State of the Art Overview of the Thematic Network on Restoration and Preservation of Coastal Biodiversity summarizes the best available knowledge and practices in Europe on the valuation of coastal and marine biodiversity. Through the concept of Biological Valuation and Biological Valuation Maps (BVM) that can be used as baseline maps for future spatial planning at sea, practical guidelines for incorporating biodiversity in coastal and marine policies are provided. Additionally a general introduction on marine biodiversity, threats to marine biodiversity and case studies across European Seas are available online through the Coastal WIKI, developed within the ENCORA project to provide the most effective tool for networking and dissemination of the State of the Art.

Wiki-link: Theme_7

State of the Art on national and international strategies for the biological valuation

The continuously increasing socio-economic pressure on the coastal system urges the need for a decision-making framework to objectively allocate the different user functions in the coastal zone. The coastal biodiversity suffers badly from the anthropogenic stress hampering the urgent need for a thorough preservation and restoration of coastal biodiversity. Theme 7 on the restoration and preservation of coastal biodiversity aims at establishing a strategy to provide an integrated view on nature’s intrinsic value. Biological value is here defined as the value of biodiversity, without any reference to anthropogenic use. As such, the biological value complements the social and economic valuation (Theme 1) within DSSs. Till now, when requested, the biological value of an area was basically assessed through an unguided procedure, primarily based upon a (the available) best expert judgement. A marine biological valuation strategy, in contrary, should ideally be (1) scientifically widely acceptable, to avoid an uncontrolled proliferation of valuation strategies (i.e. broad scientific support), and (2) widely applicable, to maximise its applicability (e.g. stakeholder involvement). In order to support such a strategy, Biological Valuation Maps (BVM) that compile and summarize all available biological and ecological information for a study area, and that allocate an overall biological value to subzones can be used as baseline maps for future spatial planning at sea.

Wiki-link: Conservation_and_restoration_of_biodiversity

Concept of biological valuation[1]

There is worldwide recognition of the benefits of management for sustainable use and conservation of the sea. In order to develop management strategies in the marine environment, reliable and meaningful, but integrated ecological information is needed. Marine biological valuation maps that compile and summarize all available biological and ecological information for a study area, and that allocate an overall marine biological value to subzones, can be used as baseline maps for future spatial planning at sea. Biological valuation assessments have been developed primarily for terrestrial systems and species. Problems encountered when applying terrestrial-based assessments to marine areas are currently demonstrated in the difficulties encountered implementing the EC Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) in the marine environment. The Directive was written from a terrestrial viewpoint, and applying it to more dynamic marine systems has proved problematic. Criteria developed for identifying terrestrial species and habitats for conservation cannot be easily applied to the marine environment. Therefore, different valuation criteria may be needed for marine areas. The European Commission is currently developing a Marine Strategy Directive, which recognizes the need for a thematic strategy for the protection and conservation of the European marine environment with the overall aim to promote sustainable use of the seas and conserve marine ecosystems. It is necessary that the definition of the value of marine areas should be based on the assessment of areas against a set of objectively chosen ecological criteria, making best use of scientific monitoring and survey data. A first step towards such an objective valuation framework was recently made in the Netherlands, where selection criteria from the EC Habitat and Bird Directives and the OSPAR guidelines were used to determine which marine areas have special ecological values in terms of high biodiversity. A scientifically sound and widely applicable concept for marine biological valuation, drawing on existing valuation criteria and methods (literature review) and attempts to rationalize them into a single model was has been performed. This concept represents a consensus reached by a large and diverse group of experts in the field. Apart from its immediate merit as a guideline for marine biological valuation, this State of the Art can also be regarded as an incentive to further discussion on marine biological valuation. In selecting the valuation criteria for Biological Valuation Maps three distinct types of literature were included in our State of the Art review:


  • Articles on the assessment of valuable ecological marine areas
  • Literature on selection criteria for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
  • International legislative documents that include selection criteria (EC Bird/Habitat Directives, Ramsar Convention, OSPAR guidelines, UNEP Convention on Biological Conservation, etc.).

The valuation criteria that were selected for this concept are rarity, fitness consequences, aggregation (as first-order criteria), naturalness and proportional importance (as modifying criteria). Once the concept of biological valuation is applied to a marine study area, the result of this process could be visualized on marine biological valuation maps (BVMs). Marine BVMs can act as a kind of baseline describing the intrinsic biological and ecological value of subzones within a study area. They can be considered as warning systems for marine managers who are planning new, threatening activities at sea, and can help to indicate conflicts between human uses and a subzone’s high biological value during spatial planning.

Wiki-links:

Adaptation of the Concept[2]

During a the concept and protocol of marine biological valuation was discussed, which resulted in fine-tuning the concept of marine biological valuation, especially with respect to its applicability to marine areas. The workshop was a joint venture of the EU CA ENCORA and the EU NoE MARBEF. Both Theme 7 within ENCORA and Theme 3 within MARBEF deal with marine/coastal biological valuation and by organizing a common workshop for both themes it was hoped to reach a consensus on this topic which is agreed upon by a large scientific community. Cooperation between ENCORA and MARBEF in this initial phase of the development of a biological valuation methodology will lead to a methodology which is acceptable for a broader marine/coastal community. The concept of marine biological valuation was reorganized to avoid double counting of scores (i.e. lumped criterion ‘aggregation-fitness consequences’) and to allow a more logical order of the steps which should be made during valuation (i.e. assessing the biological value on two different scales instead of incorporation of ‘proportional importance’ as a valuation criterion). ‘Rarity’ was retained as a valuation criterion while ‘naturalness’ was excluded from the concept since ‘naturalness’ is usually assessed on the basis of the absence of human impacts in the subzone. This makes it almost impossible to apply this criterion without specific reference to human impacts, which is deliberately excluded from the definition of biological valuation.

Wiki-link:

Development Protocol (tools)[3]

Guidelines for a generic biological valuation protocol based on the above mentioned valuation criteria has been set up and tested on a European scale. All steps in the valuation protocol are described, starting from the selection of the valuation criteria over the determination of the appropriate assessment questions and practical algorithms to evaluate the criteria to the final scoring of all assessment questions.

  • Select valuation criteria at two different scales, first at the local (study area) scale and secondly at a broader, (eco)regional scale.
  • Subdividing the study area in subzones. For the purpose of marine biological valuation a division of the study area in subzones according to a habitat classification seems most appropriate.
  • Available data and reliability of information. A detailed database, covering all data and information used for the value assessment, should be attached to the maps, and this should be consulted whenever the maps are used to guide advice or when used as a warning system in management decisions.
  • Assessment questions. By answering a set of possible assessment questions, related to the different structures and processes of biodiversity and coupled to the proposed valuation criteria, all aspects linked to biological and ecological valuation are visualized
  • Mathematical algorithms. By developing specific algorithms for each assessment question the value of the subzones can be quantitatively assessed relatively to each other.
  • Scoring. It seems impossible to set uniform thresholds which would be applicable to all marine ecosystems, so this needs to be done on a case by case basis. When all relevant questions are scored for the different subzones within a study area, all criteria (with respect to all organizational levels of biodiversity) are assessed.
  • The results of the biological valuation of a study area can now be presented on a map, where each subzone within the area is assigned a colour corresponding with its value (Derous et al, submitted).

A major benefit of the proposed marine biological valuation protocol is the fact that all available biological and ecological data are integrated for each subzone, which makes the comparison between subzones easier for the users of the Biological Valuation Maps. The reliability of the assessed intrinsic value should be noted by attaching a label to the different subzones. This label can display the amount and quality of the data used to assess the value of a certain subzone or it can display how many assessment questions could be answered given the data available for each subzone (reliability of information). These reliability labels should be consulted simultaneously while using the BVMs. Next to that, they help to identify knowledge gaps which could direct future scientific research (Derous et al., 2007). Finally different case studies, allowing to test and fine-tune the Biological Valuation Concept are performed or will be tested. The results of the biological valuation of these case study areas will be presented on the Coastal Wiki as soon all the tests are done.

  • Flamborough Head Area (NE UK)
  • Isles of Scilly (SW UK)
  • Pico-Faial Channel (Azores, Portugal)
  • Belgian-Dutch coast (Belgium – the Netherlands)
  • Sylt-Romo area (Denmark)
  • Gulf of Gdansk (Poland)

Wiki-links:

Additional Activities

In addition to the overview on valuation of coastal and marine biodiversity and practical guidelines for incorporating biodiversity in coastal and marine policies Theme 7 provides also a more general overview of information on marine biodiversity. This information is consulted through the Coastal Wiki. As such, theme 7 aims at providing a forum for discussion and sharing knowledge on coastal biodiversity, its threats and consequent policy making aiming at restoration and conservation measures.

Biodiversity

This chapter of the Coastal Wiki contains general information on marine biodiversity. Biodiversity is an all-inclusive term to describe the total variation among living organisms of our planet. In its most simple form, biodiversity or biological diversity is therefore 'Life on Earth' and marine biodiversity is 'Life in the Seas and Oceans. While genetic, species and ecosystem diversity can be considered as elements of ‘structural diversity’, ‘functional diversity’ refers to the variety of biological processes, functions or characteristics of a particular ecosystem. There are several ways in which ecological classifications group organisms according to common functions: classification according to their habitat, to their position in the food web or to their functional feeding mechanism. The Coastal Wiki provides the most commonly used measurements of biodiversity (species richness, evenness and taxonomic indices) and sampling tools (both for pelagic and benthic organisms) of marine biodiversity. Finally an overview of both European and some Global initiatives on species lists and and “Global Species Information Systems” aiming at gathering and making available information on all known species on earth and which serves as a tool for information and awareness raising for the wider public as well as for enhanced scientific cooperation.

Wiki-links:

Threats to biodiversity

Theme 7 focuses on four main treats to marine biodiversity: Eutrophication, Fisheries, Invasions and the Effects of Global Climate Change. Information on the effects of Eutrophication is mainly linked with Theme 6 of ENCORA: Effect of development and use on eco-morphology and coastal habitats.

Wiki-links:

Case studies: threats and legislations on biodiversity of European Seas

For the case studies on threats and legislations on the biodiversity in the European Seas, we refer to reports (publish date: 31 may 2002) of the ‘European Environmental Agency’ (EEA), in which each Sea is treated closely with a large attention for the marine biodiversity. In the ‘EEA reports’ an overview is given of the most important physical, biological and exploitation characteristics, the main threats to biodiversity and the policies at work (nature protection and protection of marine resources by restrictions on fishing and hunting).The contents of these reports are reflected with the indication of the most relevant information.

Wiki-link: Biodiversity_in_the_European_Seas

Conclusions

Best available information and knowledge on valuation of marine and coastal biodiversity was collected through an extensive literature overview focussing on 1)Articles on the assessment of valuable ecological marine areas 2)Literature on selection criteria for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and 3)International legislative documents that include selection criteria. A scientifically sound and widely applicable concept for marine biological valuation drawing on existing valuation criteria and methods (literature review) has been performed. Through international workshops, within the framework of FP6 ENCORA CA and MarBEF NoE, the concept and protocol of marine biological valuation was discussed, which resulted in fine-tuning the concept of marine biological valuation, especially with respect to its applicability to marine areas. Guidelines for a generic biological valuation protocol has been described, set, up and tested on a European scale. These different case studies, allowing to test and fine-tune the Biological Valuation Concept are performed or will be tested. The results of the biological valuation of these case study areas will be presented on the Coastal Wiki as soon all the test are done. In addition to the overview on valuation of coastal and marine biodiversity and practical guidelines for incorporating biodiversity in coastal and marine policies Theme 7 provides also more general information on marine biodiversity. This information is consulted through the Coastal Wiki and is intended to provide a general overview and some of the issues and policies of marine biodiversity across Europe. Currently, this section is still a work in progress with further contributions expected as the Coastal Wiki grows.

References

  1. Derous, S.; Agardy, M.T.; Hillewaert, H.; Hostens, K.; Jamieson, G.; Lieberknecht, L.; Mees, J.; Moulaert, I.; Olenin, S.; Paelinckx, D.; Rabaut, M.; Rachor, E.; Roff, J.C.; Stienen, E.; van der Wal, J.T.; Van Lancker, V.; Verfaillie, E.; Vincx, M.; Weslawski, J.M.; Degraer, S. (2007). A concept for biological valuation in the marine environment. Oceanologia 49(1): 99-128
  2. Derous S, Austen M, Claus S, Daan N, Dauvin J-C, Deneudt K, Depestele J, Desroy N, Heessen H, Hostens K, Marboe AH, Lescrauwaet A-K, Moreno M, Moulaert I, Paelinckx D, Rabaut M, Rees H, Ressureiçao A, Roff J, Santos PT, Speybroeck J, Stienen EWM, Tatarek A, Ter Hofstede R, Vincx M, Zarzycki T, Degraer S (2007). Building on the concept for marine biological valuation with respect to translating it to a practical protocol: Viewpoints derived from a joint ENCORA-MARBEF initiative. Oceanologia 49(4): 1-8
  3. Derous S, Courtens W, Deckers P, Deneudt K, Hostens K, Moulaert I, Paelinckx D, Rabaut M, Roff JC, Stienen EWM, Van Lancker V, Verfaillie E, Vincx M, Degraer S (submitted). Biological valuation: Guidelines for a transparent and generally applicable protocol for the marine environment Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems