Using EUNIS habitat classification for benthic mapping in European seas: Present concerns and future needs

The EUNIS (European Union Nature Information System) habitat classification system aims to provide a common European reference set of habitat types within a hierarchical classification, and to cover all terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats of Europe. The classification facilitates reporting of habitat data in a comparable manner, for use in nature conservation (e.g. inventories, monitoring and assessments), habitat mapping and environmental management. For the marine environment the importance of a univocal habitat classification system is confirmed by the fact that many European initiatives, aimed at marine mapping, assessment and reporting, are increasingly using EUNIS habitat categories and respective codes. For this reason substantial efforts have been made to include information on marine benthic habitats from different regions, aiming to provide a comprehensive geographical coverage of European seas. However, there still remain many concerns on its applicability as only a small fraction of Europe's seas are fully mapped and increasing knowledge and application raise further issues to be resolved. This paper presents an overview of the main discussion and conclusions of a workshop, organised by the MeshAtlantic project, focusing upon the experience in using the EUNIS habitats classification across different countries and seas, together with case studies. The aims of the meeting were to: (i) bring together scientists with exper_ience_in the use of the EUNIS marine classification and representatives from the European Environment Agency (EEA); (ii) agree on enhancements to EUNIS that ensure an improved representation of the European marine habitats; and (iii) establish practices that make marine habitat maps produced by scientists more consistent with the needs of managers and decision-makers. During the workshop challenges for the future development of EUNIS were identified, which have been classified into five categories: (1) structure and hierarchy; (2) biology; (3) terminology; (4) mapping; and (5) future development. The workshop ended with a declaration from the attendees, with recommendations to the EEA and European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity, to take into account the outputs of the workshop, which identify weaknesses in the current classification and include proposals for its modification, and to devise a process to further develop the marine component of the EUNIS habitat classification. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Habitat classification scheme, EUNIS, Marine habitats, Habitat mapping

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Galparsoro Ibon, Connor David W., Borja Angel, Aish Annabelle, Amorim Patricia, Bajjouk Touria, Chambers Caroline, Coggan Roger, Dirberg Guillaume, Ellwood Helen, Evans Douglas, Goodin Kathleen L., Grehan Anthony, Haldin Jannica, Howell Kerry, Jenkins Chris, Michez Noemie, Mo Giulia, Buhl-Mortensen Pal, Pearce Bryony, Populus Jacques, Salomidi Maria, Sanchez Francisco, Serrano Alberto, Shumchenia Emily, Tempera Fernando, Vasquez Mickael (2012). Using EUNIS habitat classification for benthic mapping in European seas: Present concerns and future needs. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 64 (12). 2630-2638.,

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