Theme 7 introduction to marine biodiversity

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The original Encora Theme 7 on coastal biodiversity change provides a forum for discussion and knowledge sharing on biodiversity in coastal terrestrial, transitional waters and marine areas. Threats to the habitats and ecosystems and the consequent policy making aimed at their conservation, management and restoration also form an important element for discussion. As such, the theme encompasses experiences and case studies in the field of coastal zone management throughout Europe. This article provides a link to those sections, which have a predominantly marine focus.

Theme 7: Assessment of biodiversity change: conservation, management and restoration of marine biodiversity

author: M. Rabaut

Marine Biodiversity

Marine biodiversity is generally high in terms of species number. It can be considered to have additional diversity components, which are manifested in both the structure and function of the marine environment.

author: J.G. Harmelin

Structural diversity has three elements that relate to Genetic diversity; Species diversity and Ecosystem diversity.

The second element in marine biodiversity relates to the its functional diversity. This reflects the biological and physical complexity of the ecosystem. In this case it involves the sea bed, the water column and sea surface and the interactions within and between the plant and animal communities.

Measurements of biodiversity

The number of different species in a given area provides a simple measure of biodiversity. On land this might be expressed as number of plant species per square metre quadrat. However, there are many ways of creating a biodiversity index, which are discussed in the accompanying article entitled Measurements of biodiversity.

As part of the Encora project a workshop was held on marine biological valuation, from 6 to 8 December 2006 at Ghent (Belgium). This provided a number of important discussion points and recommendations for evaluating marine biodiversity as part of a process of conservation and restoration.

Sampling tools

In the marine environment there are a number of ways of sampling marine life. These include those specifically designed to collect samples as well as those adapted from or using commercial methods.

Species lists

Species lists provide the primary information required to assess biodiversity. There are a number of web sites providing such information.

European Seas

The European seas range from the exposed Atlantic and North Sea to enclosed seas, such as the Baltic and the Mediterranean. The biodiversity of these seas varies considerably depending on their depth, surface areas, climatic conditions, postion in relation to the Gulf Stream, tidal range etc.


Marine biodiversity is influenced both by the actions that take place in the sea or in transitional waters. It is also affected by activites taking place on land hence an understanding of the relationship between the management of the sea, Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is essential for effective decision making. In this context the articles and discussion in Theme 3 form an important part of the development of policies for coastal, maritime and marine areas, surveillence, compliance monitoring, for example in relation to Theme 4 (pollution) and management.