Indicators for sea-floor integrity under the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive

TitleIndicators for sea-floor integrity under the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsRice, J, Arvanitidis C, Borja A, Frid C, Hiddink JG, Krause J, Lorance P, Ragnarsson SA, Sköld M, Trabucco B, Enserink L, Norkko A
JournalEcological Indicators
Volume12
Issue1
Pages174 - 184
KeywordsBenthic indicators, Good Environmental Status, Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Sea-floor Integrity
Abstract

The European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires European states to maintain their marine waters in 'Good Environmental Status'. The MSFD includes 11 descriptors of "Good Environmental Status" (GES), including "Sea-floor Integrity". This descriptor is defined as: "Sea-floor integrity is at a level that ensures that the structure and functions of the ecosystems are safeguarded and benthic ecosystems, in particular, are not adversely affected." This contribution briefly summarizes the main conclusions of an international expert group established to review the scientific basis for making this concept operational. The experts concluded that consideration of 8 attributes of the seabed system would provide adequate information to meet requirements of the MSFD: (i) substratum, (ii) bioengineers, (iii) oxygen concentration, (iv) contaminants and hazardous substances, (v) species composition, (vi) size distribution, (vii) trophodynamics and (viii) energy flow and life history traits. The experts further concluded that "Good Environmental Status" cannot be defined exclusively as "pristine Environmental Status", but rather status when impacts of all uses were sustainable. Uses are sustainable if two conditions are met:the pressures associated with those uses do not hinder the ecosystem components to retain their natural diversity, productivity and dynamic ecological processesrecovery from perturbations such that the attributes lie within their range of historical natural variation must be rapid and secure. No single specific suite of indicators is proposed, both because no single set of indicators will meet the needs of all EU countries in all regional seas, and because according to the MSFD indicator selection is the prerogative of individual states. However, the need for conceptual consistency in assessing GES throughout European seas should be served if the selection of indicators and the integration of their information content in assessing GES follow the guidance in the report of the TG on Seafloor Integrity. This guidance is presented here in summary form. Informed by this report European Commission selected as indicators for the Sea-floor Integrity: (i) type, abundance, biomass and areal extent of relevant biogenic substrate; (ii) extent of the seabed significantly affected by human activities for the different substrate types; (iii) presence of particularly sensitive and/or tolerant species; (iv) multi-metric indices assessing benthic community condition and functionality, such as species diversity and richness, proportion of opportunistic to sensitive species; (v) proportion of biomass or number of individuals in the macrobenthos above some specified length/size; and (vi) parameters describing the characteristics (shape, slope and intercept) of the size spectrum of the benthic community.

URLhttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1470160X11000744
DOI10.1016/j.ecolind.2011.03.021

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