Marine monitoring in Plymouth

Marine monitoring and
Natural England
Plymouth Sound and the Tamar Estuaries
Gavin Black
Specialist Marine Monitoring
[email protected]
• Natural England’s remit
• Legislation and drivers
• MPAs and reporting
• Monitoring Plymouth’s features and
assessing condition
Natural England’s remit
• Natural England is a non-departmental public body
• We are Government’s Statutory adviser on the natural environment.
• Provide advice on the marine environment to sea-users and
managers around England out to 12 nautical miles.
• ‘ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced and
managed for the benefit of present and future generations, thereby
contributing to sustainable development’.
• Lead role in monitoring and reporting on the state of an English MPA
Key legislative drivers and MPAs
Habitats Directive (1992) & Birds Directive (1979)
− Natura 2000 network (SACs and SPAs)
OSPAR Convention (1992)
– to establish a network of marine protected areas which is both
ecologically coherent and well-managed by 2016.
Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (WCA 1981)
– Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
Marine and Coastal Access Act (MACAA 2009)
– Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs)
Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD 2008)
– Wider marine environment
Conservation objectives & MPAs
The objective of English MPAs is to reach and
remain in favourable condition
For European sites favourable condition is a sitespecific expression of how a site contributes to
Favourable Conservation Status and whether
features are healthy
Described using attributes set by JNCC’s
Common Standards Monitoring guidance
– Ecological attributes: extent, biotope
– Environmental attributes: water clarity,
sedimentation rate
Mandatory attributes for each feature plus
discretionary attributes
Targets relate to baselines at or near designation
Assessing England’s SAC features
• Assessment in late 2012
• Assessed 32 marine Special Areas of
Conservation (SCI)
– 85 habitats & 155 sub-features assessed
– 734 habitat attributes assessed
– 1350 sources of evidence used – internal
monitoring reports and external literature and
• Other information included WFD monitoring
outputs and assessments
• Resources have increased but we can only
monitor a proportion of attributes per year
 Need to prioritise
Paul Kay
Considerations in targeting monitoring effort
- to support adaptive management
• Risk from anthropogenic impact:
– Sensitivity of features to potential pressures
– Exposure to potential pressures, existing
management & future threats
• Age / quality of existing data sets
• Natural temporal variability
• Constraints / opportunities:
– Reporting requirements e.g. 6 year cycle
– Survey logistics - integration with other
A working solution...
Auditable, repeatable, syntax driven,
process, supported by Access database
Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
The Plymouth Sound and Estuaries SAC is
regarded to be of international conservation
importance due to diverse salinity conditions,
sedimentary and reef habitats. The wide
variety of habitats gives rise to communities
representative of ria systems with unusual
features, such as populations of
Mediterranean and Atlantic species rarely
found in British waters.
1110 Sandbanks which are slightly
covered by sea water all the time
1130 Estuaries
1160 Large shallow inlets and bays
1170 Reefs
1330 Atlantic salt meadows
1140 Mudflats and sandflats not covered
by seawater at low tide
1441 Shore dock
1102 Allis shad
Special Protection Area (SPA)
• Tamar Estuaries Complex
classified in 1997
• Internationally important
numbers of:
– Egretta garzetta (little egret)
and Recurvirostra avosetta
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
Yealm Estuary SSSI
– Littoral sediment; Littoral rock
Wembury SSSI
– Littoral sediment; Littoral rock; Maritime cliff
and slope; Cirl bunting; Woodland
Plymouth Sound Shore & Cliffs SSSI
– Littoral rock; Geology
St John’s Lake SSSI
– Wintering birds (black-tailed godwit, wigeon);
Mudflats; Saltmarsh
Lynher Estuary SSSI
– Wintering birds (black-tailed godwit);
Mudflats; Saltmarsh; Bulbous foxtail;
Tamar Tavy SSSI
– Saltmarsh; Vascular plant assemblage;
(triangular clubrush); Wintering birds
(avocet); Woodland
Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)
• Tamar Estuary MCZs
– Intertidal biogenic reefs
– Intertidal coarse sediment
– Blue mussel (Mytilus edulis)
– Native oyster (Ostrea edulis)
– Smelt (Osmerus eperlanus)
• One of 27 MCZs declared on 21st
November 2013
Reef attributes:
Extent of reefs
Water density (salinity and temperature)
Water clarity
Intertidal rock and boulder
Intertidal rock and boulder
Intertidal rock and boulder
Species composition of low-shore boulder communities
Subtidal rocky reef communities
Distribution of characteristic biotopes
Subtidal rocky reef communities
Species composition of characteristic biotopes
Kelp forest communities
Algal species composition
Distribution of characteristic rocky shore communities
Species composition of rockpool communities
Characteristic species - Laminaria hyperborea & L.
ochroleuca - population size
Characteristic species - Distomus variolosus population
Kelp forest communities
Estuarine bedrock, boulder and
Extent and distribution of characteristic biotopes
cobble communities
(SIR.Cor.Ele - LsacRS.FiR as identified at Appendix IV)
Kelp forest communities
Condition assessment
• Favourable condition of the reefs in the SAC will be determined by:
– Extent and distribution of the habitat;
– Diversity of the habitat and it’s component species;
– Community structure of the habitat
• e.g. population structure of individual notable species and
their contribution to the functioning of the ecosystem
– Natural environmental quality and processes
• e.g. water quality, suspended sediment levels, etc.
Subtidal sandbank attributes:
Subtidal sandbanks
Subtidal sandbanks
Sediment character: particle size
Subtidal sandbanks
Subtidal sandbanks
Eelgrass bed communities
Extent of eelgrass bed communities
Subtidal sandbanks
Eelgrass bed communities
Water clarity
Subtidal sandbanks
Eelgrass bed communities
Characteristic species- density of Zostera marina
Subtidal sandbanks
Eelgrass bed communities
Characteristic species - epiphytic community
Subtidal sandbanks
Eelgrass bed communities
Nutrient status - green algal mat
Subtidal sandbanks
Subtidal sandbanks
Species composition of characteristic biotopes
Gravel and sand communities (IGS.Sell & IMS.EcorEns as identified in Appendix
Species composition of characteristic biotope
Muddy sand communities
(IMS.MacAbr as identified in Appendix IV)
Recent surveys
• 2009 diving survey of seagrass beds
• 2010 intertidal surveys of Lynher and
• 2011 subtidal sediment grab sampling
• 2011 subtidal cobble communities video
• 2012 diving survey of kelp communities
• 2012 diving and video survey of seagrass
• 2013 diving survey of subtidal reefs
• 2013 saltmarsh survey
• Ongoing informal assessment of Allis shad
Anticipated future surveys
• 2014 baseline conditions for MCZ
• 2015 intertidal rocky shore survey
• 2016 estuarine subtidal sediment
and reef survey
• 2016 subtidal sandbanks survey
• 2017 kelp forest survey
• 2017 seagrass survey
Issues and limitations
• Resources dictate survey effort
– Surveys represent snapshots in time (ca. 6 years between surveys)
– Ensuring sufficient sampling effort to determine significant levels of
• Determining causes... are changes natural or anthropogenic?
• Reliant on other data to inform our
assessment of condition particularly
activities data
• Are we seeing whole picture?
Opportunities for sharing resources and data
• Water Framework Directive (WFD), MSFD, Civil Hydrography
Programme (CHP) and other statutory drivers all involve data
• Partnerships and other collaborations offer many opportunities
– Public sector: EA, Cefas, MCA, IFCAs, PCC, CCO etc
– Institutions and NGOs: Plymouth University, MBA, Seasearch
• Open Government License seeks to share data
– “Gather once, use many times”
Future improvements
• Establish a continuous process for capturing
feature exposure to activities
• Collaborative approach provides further
opportunities to refine our approach e.g. allowing
more frequent sampling
• Expand programme to include MCZs, SPAs,
• UK Marine Biodiversity Monitoring R&D
programme will identify options for delivering
integrated monitoring: inside and outside MPAs
 Prioritisation process will change, but should
retain key elements of Risk Based Approach
• Scale of the task and limited resources force us to prioritise
• Makes sense to prioritise monitoring on those features subject to most risk
for more frequent survey to detect deterioration & support adaptive
• Collaboration with other marine agencies provides efficiencies and
increased capacity
• Explore feasibility of a combination of periodic ‘intensive survey’ with more
frequent, but less intensive sampling to better assess natural variability &
detect deterioration / recovery
Thank you
Gavin Black
Marine Monitoring Specialist
0300 060 2424
[email protected]
Plymouth in context
• Diverse conditions
• open coast
• large, sheltered bay
• confluence of 5 estuaries
• diverse shores and seabed substrates
• Huge range of habitats and species
• Internationally important European Marine Site
Subtidal sandbanks
• Range of sandy sediments inc.
– Tide-swept sandy banks in estuaries
– Sandy muds north of Breakwater with seapens
– Muddy sands in Jennycliff Bay
– Fine sands with eelgrass beds at Cellars Cove and Cawsands
• One of biggest areas of eelgrass in Devon and South-West
Diverse range of reefs
Rich limestone shore communities
Kelp forests
Nationally rare sponges, corals, anemones
and crustaceans
Sub-feature extent currently based on 1999
But we know better data exist

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