A generic framework to assess the representation and protection of benthic ecosystems in European marine protected areas

Type Article
Date 2020-07
Language English
Author(s) Greathead Clare1, Magni Paolo2, Vanaverbeke Jan3, Buhl‐mortensen Lene4, Janas Urszula5, Blomqvist Mats6, Craeymeersch Johan A.7, Dannheim Jennifer8, 9, Darr Alexander10, Degraer Steven3, Desroy NicolasORCID11, Donnay Annick12, Griffiths Yessica13, Guala Ivan14, Guerin Laurent15, Hinchen Hayley13, Labrune Celine16, Reiss Henning17, Van Hoey Gert18, Birchenough Silvana N.R.19
Affiliation(s) 1 : Marine Scotland Science, Planning and Environmental Advice, Ecology and Conservation Group Aberdeen, UK
2 : National Research Council of Italy, Institute of Anthropic Impact and Sustainability in Marine Environment (CNR‐IAS) Torregrande‐Oristano, Italy
3 : Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Operational Directorate Natural Environment, Marine Ecology and Management Brussels ,Belgium
4 : Institute of Marine Research Bergen, Norway
5 : Institute of Oceanography University of Gdansk Gdynia, Poland
6 : Hafok AB Stenhamra ,Sweden
7 : Wageningen Marine Research Wageningen University Yerseke ,the Netherlands
8 : Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research Bremerhaven, Germany
9 : Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity Oldenburg ,Germany
10 : Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research, Department of Biological Oceanography Rostock ,Germany
11 : Ifremer, Laboratoire Environnement et Ressource Bretagne nord Dinard,France
12 : Station de Recherches Sous‐Marines et Océanographiques Calvi ,France
13 : Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Marine Monitoring and Evidence Team Peterborough ,UK
14 : Foundation International Marine Centre (IMC) Torregrande‐Oristano, Italy
15 : Office Français de la Biodiversité, Patrimoine Naturel joint unit Dinard ,France
16 : Sorbonne Université, CNRS, Laboratoire d’Ecogéochimie des Environnements Benthiques, LECOB, 66650 Banyuls‐sur‐Mer ,France
17 : Nord University, Faculty of Biosciences and Aquaculture, Ecology Division Bodø ,Norway
18 : The Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Animal Science Department Oostende ,Belgium
19 : The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science Lowestoft, UK
Source Aquatic Conservation-marine And Freshwater Ecosystems (1052-7613) (Wiley), 2020-07 , Vol. 30 , N. 7 , P. 1253-1275
DOI 10.1002/aqc.3401
WOS© Times Cited 5
Keyword(s) benthos, coastal, conservation evaluation, marine protected area, monitoring, ocean

There is concern across the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) region that a consideration of vulnerable components and the wider support mechanisms underpinning benthic marine ecosystems may be lacking from the process of marine protected area (MPA) designation, management and monitoring.

In this study, MPAs across six European ecoregions were assessed from a benthic ecology perspective. The study included 102 MPAs, designated by 10 countries, and focused on three aspects regarding the role of the benthos in: (i) the designation of MPAs; (ii) the management measures used in MPAs; and (iii) the monitoring and assessment of MPAs.

Qualitative entries to a questionnaire based on an existing framework (EU project ‘Monitoring Evaluation of Spatially Managed Areas’, (MESMA) were collected by 19 benthic experts of the ICES Benthic Ecology Working Group. A pedigree matrix was used to apply a numerical scale (score) to these entries.

The results showed clear differences in scores between ecoregions and between criteria. The designation‐phase criteria generally achieved higher scores than the implementation‐phase criteria. Poor designation‐phase scores were generally reiterated in the implementation‐phase scores, such as scores for assessment and monitoring.

Over 70% of the MPA case studies were found to consider the benthos to some extent during selection and designation; however, this was not followed up with appropriate management measures and good practice during the implementation phase.

Poor spatial and temporal coverage of monitoring and ineffective indicators is unlikely to pick up changes caused by management measures in the MPA. There is concern that without adequate monitoring and adaptive management frameworks, the MPAs will be compromised. Also, there could be an increased likelihood that, with regard to the benthos, they will fail to meet their conservation objectives.

This assessment was successful in highlighting issues related to the representation and protection of the benthos in MPAs and where changes need to be made, such as expanding the characterization and monitoring of benthic species or habitats of interest. These issues could be attributable to an ongoing process and/or an indication that some MPAs only have ‘paper protection’.

Full Text
File Pages Size Access
Publisher's official version 23 1 MB Open access
Table S1. Qualitative data collated for the original 19 questions for each MPA case study, divided into metadata, context, designation phase and implementation phase. 35 KB Open access
Table S2. Data and Information sources used by the benthic experts to answer the questionnaire. 30 KB Open access
Table S3. Numerical results for each MPA case study, for the nine quality criteria selected, after applying the pedigree matrix. There are separate totals for the designation phase and implementation 26 KB Open access
Table S4. SIMPER results. 40 KB Open access
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How to cite 

Greathead Clare, Magni Paolo, Vanaverbeke Jan, Buhl‐mortensen Lene, Janas Urszula, Blomqvist Mats, Craeymeersch Johan A., Dannheim Jennifer, Darr Alexander, Degraer Steven, Desroy Nicolas, Donnay Annick, Griffiths Yessica, Guala Ivan, Guerin Laurent, Hinchen Hayley, Labrune Celine, Reiss Henning, Van Hoey Gert, Birchenough Silvana N.R. (2020). A generic framework to assess the representation and protection of benthic ecosystems in European marine protected areas. Aquatic Conservation-marine And Freshwater Ecosystems, 30(7), 1253-1275. Publisher's official version : https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.3401 , Open Access version : https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00641/75264/