Assessment of Ecological Coherence of the Marine Protected Areas Network

Abstract: 

This set of practical information defines practical criteria and a first set of tools that can be used repeatedly to assess ecological coherence of the Baltic Sea MPA networks.

Sea Basin(s): 
Country: 
Year: 
2007
Application in MSP: 
Taken into account in an MSP process
Sectors: 
Nature protection
Type of Issue: 
Data
Ecosystem-based approach
Environment aspects
Type of practice: 
Methodology
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Analyse spatial aspects
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Yes
Coherence with other processes: 
Habitats and Birds Directive
Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Water Framework Directive

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What methods can be used to asses the ecological coherence of Marine Protected Area (MPA)
  • What is the current status of the ecological coherence of Marine Protected Area (MPA) the Baltic Sea and how can this be improved?
  • What is the current status of the ecological coherence of Marine Protected Area (MPA) in two case studies in the Swedish archipelago and how can this be improved?

Implementation Context

Ecologically coherent networks of protected areas are required by many regional and international conventions in both marine and terrestrial areas and at the European level, by the EC Habitats Directive. As a result, initiatives to establish MPA networks have been initiated in the Baltic Sea. However, as in many other cases, the ecological coherence of the networks has not been assessed. This practice focuses on ecological coherence in the Baltic Sea region.

Aspects / Objectives

  • Look into the concept of ecological coherence,
  • To present practical criteria and a first set of tools that can be used repeatedly to assess ecological coherence of the Baltic Sea MPA networks
  • To measure progress in the implementation of agreed international directives and conventions.
  • Present results of an initial assessment of the Baltic Sea MPA networks

Method

  • The researchers adopted four central criteria for an ecologically coherent network from scientific literature and previous work e.g. in OSPAR and HELCOM. In order to be ecologically coherent the network should
  1. be adequate in terms of MPA size, shape and quality to fulfil its aims
  2. ensure representation of the full range of conservation features (species, habitats or landscapes) in a region
  3. include replicates of each feature to ensure protection of the natural variation of the features it aims to protect and to give insurance against catastrophic events
  4. ensure connectivity by enabling dispersal and migration of species within and between MPAs.
  • These theoretical criteria were further developed into more practical ones that were used to assess the Baltic Sea MPA networks.
  • The assessment of ecological coherence of the Baltic Sea MPA networks was done on a broad-scale for the entire Baltic Sea based on marine landscape maps developed in the BALANCE project.
  • A finer scale assessment of the Natura 2000 network was carried out in a pilot area, the Swedish archipelago - Ă…land Sea - Archipelago Sea, based on modelled habitat maps of six Natura 2000 habitats

Main Outputs / Results

For the Baltic Sea scale the research concluded:

  • In order to reach ecological coherence of the Baltic Sea MPA networks, more sites should be designated, especially in the deeper offshore areas but also in the coastal areas.
  • Also the low salinity areas in the Gulf of Bothnia, as well as mud and hard clay landscapes need substantially better representation within the network.
  • The designation of SPAs as SACs would not significantly improve the ecological coherence ofthe network, but in some countries that have large SPAs, better coherence of the network could be achieved.
  • There is also a clear need for larger sites. Designation of large sites would also support within-site connectivity of short-distance dispersers, which was recognized as a major shortcoming of the current network.

For the two specific sites in the Swedish archipelago the research concluded:

  • More emphasis should be set on placing the sites to cover whole habitat patches, not only parts of them. Especially for habitats that are generally larger (e.g. estuaries), larger sites need to be designated.
  • Larger sites are also important, however, in securing within-site connectivity of species inhabiting smaller fragmented habitats (e.g. reefs).
  • Overall, representation of all assessed habitats, both Natura 2000 and essential fish habitats, should be increased and when doing this, emphasis should be set on placing the new sites in areas where the particular habitat has not been protected. This would not only secure natural variation of the habitat, but also improve connectivity between the protected habitats.

Transferability

This assessment is a first attempt to assess the ecological coherence of the Baltic Sea MPA networks. Due to its broad scale and the coarse resolution of the datasets, the results should be seen as a general overview. This reduces the transferability of the practice. However, the methods used can be used as an inspiration source for other sea basins to assess their ecological coherence.

Costs / Funding Source

Interreg IIIB Baltic Sea Region

Responsible Entity

The Danish Forest and Nature Agency

Haraldsgade 53, DK-2100 Copenhagen

Denmark

www.sns.dk

Tel.: +45 39472915

E-mail: balance@sns.dk

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