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Analysis of existing data to explore the influences of natural variables on sediment communities within Marine Protected Areas to support evidence-based MPA management advice - ME6001

Determining whether change to a feature within a Marine Protected Area (MPA) has occurred from natural variation or has arisen from anthropogenic impacts, such as from towed mobile gear, is a question that is particularly prudent during the current phase of implementing management measures for UK MPAs. Management decisions need to be based on sound evidence and understanding and meet the conservation objective caveat “subject to natural change/processes”.

The aims of this project are to, (i) review and recommend metrics and data analysis methods to test for the effects of natural disturbance in mobile sedimentary habitats (e.g. sandbanks) in the UK at small, local scales (such as within MPAs) and (ii) assess these effects with respect to exposure to fishing activity in a number of case study sites in an attempt to outline which changes are likely to be natural, and which may be a result of fishing activity, or a combination of both. The outcomes of this assessment will then subsequently be used to support the development of more effective evidence-based management measures for fishing activities within UK MPAs.
1) Undertake a literature review to identify which metrics and methods would be the most appropriate and sensitive to detect the variation in benthic macrofaunal data from natural and anthropogenic impacts.

2) Complete a geospatial assessment and mapping exercise of existing benthic macrofaunal datasets. The quantity, extent, and gaps in the data across UK MPAs designated for mobile sedimentary habitats will be assessed, including suitability for analysis of temporal variability in order to achieve statistically robust results.

3) Further develop data analysis methods tested during phase 1 of the MMO report reference MMO10883 (Appendix E), and undertake statistical analyses of datasets within case study MPAs to test for the effects of natural variables and fishing impacts on macrofaunal species and/or communities.

4) Review the outputs of the literature review and data analysis to discuss implications for management measure development, and provide recommendations for next steps in order to better target management measures for MPAs designated for mobile sedimentary habitats.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : Defra ME6001 Natural variability and demersal fishing FINAL   (5934k)
• ANX - Annex : Defra ME6001 Natural variability APPENDICES   (6719k)
• TPS - Two Page Summary : ME6001 Two Page Summary   (261k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2015

To: 2016

Cost: £30,020
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Marine Space Ltd