EMODnet Seabed Habitats supports classification of European IUCN Red Listed Marine Habitats
The European Commission (EC) supports policy development and implementation within the EU, working to support the EU’s framework for marine environmental protection. The Commission is also responsible for ensuring that member States apply EU environmental law correctly, helping them to comply with agreed legislation, as well as following up on complaints from citizens and non-governmental organisations.
Users were faced with the challenge of providing a risk assessment (published in 2016) of the degree of endangerment of 257 benthic marine habitats, as part of the wider measuring of progress towards the EU2020 Biodiversity Strategy, with the primary aim of halting the loss of ecosystem extent and quality.This assessment comprised the character, extent and status of benthic habitats, taking into account data on the present area of habitat, trends in quantity and quality, long-term and future trends, pressures and threats, conservation measures, data sources and supporting literature. Due to the scale of the study area users were required to find data on benthic habitats from across different regional seas and country waters, faced with the additional pressure of ensuring that data was in a format which could be easily compared between regions allowing for a valid transboundary assessment to be made. EMODnet Seabed Habitats supported via various products including EUSeaMap 2012 and additional habitat maps from site-specific surveys were used by classifying habitats to EUNIS Level 4 (or higher where available). Habitats were then assessed against five Red List criterion per regional sea, to determine their degree of endangerment. Criteria included; habitat reduction, geographic restriction, reduction in abiotic quality, reduction in biotic quality, and overall probability of collapse.
Users were able to evaluate and quantify the level of threat to marine benthic habitats across four regional seas of Europe, identifying specific EUNIS habitats at greatest risk. The results offer an important new resource for studying the status of benthic ecosystems and the goods and services they provide and will deliver relevant supporting information for implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).