A review of marine environmental indicators

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A review
of marine
environmental
indicators
reporting on
biodiversity aspects
of ecosystem health
A review of marine environmental
indicators reporting on biodiversity
aspects of ecosystem health
Report to
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
By Susan Gubbay
October 2004
Gubbay, S (2004) A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on
biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health. The RSPB, Sandy, UK.
wpo\np\env\review of marine environmental indicators\4082
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
Contents
Acronyms
1 Introduction
1.1
1.2
1.3
1.3
Environmental indicators
Identification of indicators
Selecting environmental indicators with reference to the
ecosystem approach, and the UK vision for the marine
environment
Selecting environmental indicators with reference to the
ecosystem approach, and the UK vision for the marine
environment
2 Marine environmental indicators
2.1
2.2
International marine environmental indicators relevant
to the UK
UK marine environmental indicators
3 Review of indicators
3.1
3.2
3.3
Fisheries indicators
Biodiversity indicators
Water quality & pollution indicators
4 A framework of marine biodiversity
indicators
References
5
7
11
16
18
18
23
25
30
33
36
50
54
64
71
1
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
2
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
“We measure what we value
and value what we measure”
Proposed indicator: Black-legged kittiwake breeding
success as an indicator of sandeel fishery sustainability.
Studies have linked low sandeel availability to poor
breeding success in black-legged kittiwakes. There is a
ban on sandeel fishing off the east coast of Scotland and
north-east England (2000-2006), acknowledging lobbying
by the RSPB that the black-legged kittiwake population
along that coast is declining as a result of food shortages.
3
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
4
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
Acronyms
3NSC
5NSC
5EAP
6EAP
AC 13
ASCOBANS
BAP
BOD
CBD
CEFAS
CFC
CFP
DDT
DETR
Defra
DG FISH
DPSIR
DO
DoE
DoE(NI)
EA
EBMI-F
EBS
EC
EC-BAP
EcoQO
EEA
EFTA
EHS
EIONET
EU
EUROSTAT
3rd International Conference on the Protection of
the North Sea
5th International Conference on the Protection of
the North Sea
5th Environmental Action Programme of the
European Union
6th Environmental Action Programme of the
European Union
Thirteen Accession Countries to the European
Union (prior to April 2004)
Agreement on the Conservation of Small
Cetaceans of the Baltic & North Sea
Biodiversity Action Plan
Biological Oxygen Demand
Convention on Biological Diversity
The Centre for Environment Fisheries &
Aquaculture Science
Chloroflurocarbons
Common Fisheries Policy
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane
Department for Environment, Transport & the
Regions (May 1997 – June 2001, now Defra)
Department for Environment, Food & Rural
Affairs (June 2001 – present)
Fisheries Directorate of the European Commission
Driving Force–Pressure–State–Impact–Response
Dissolved Oxygen
Department of Environment (until May 1997, now
Defra)
Department of Environment (Northern Ireland)
Environment Agency
European Biodiversity Monitoring and Indicator
Framework
England Biodiversity Strategy
European Commission
European Commission – Biodiversity Action Plan
Ecological Quality Objective
European Environment Agency
European Free Trade Area
Environment Heritage Service, Northern Ireland
European Environment Information &
Observation Network
European Union
The Statistical Office of the European Community
5
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
FAO
HELCOM
ICES
IWG Bio-Min
JNCC
MBAL
NMMP
OECD
OSPAR
NOx
NSFT
PCB
PEBLDS
pSAC
PSR
QoL
RMNC
SBSTTA
SE
SEPA
SOx
SSB
UNCSD
UNEP
UWWTD
WA
WFD
6
Food & Agriculture Organisation (United
Nations)
Convention on the Protection of the Marine
Environment of the Baltic Sea Area – the Helsinki
Commission
International Council for the Exploration of the
Sea
International Working Group on Biodiversity
Indicators and Monitoring
Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Minimum Biological Level
National Marine Monitoring Programme
Organisation for Economic Co-operation &
Development
Convention for the Protection of the Marine
Environment of the North-East Atlantic – the Oslo
Paris Commission
Nitrogen Oxides
North Sea Task Force
Polychlorinated biphenyls
Pan-European Biological & Landscape Diversity
Strategy
Possible Special Area of Conservation (under the
EU Habitats Directive)
Pressure–State–Response approach
“Quality of Life Counts” – UK Government’s
Sustainable Development Strategy
Review of Marine Nature Conservation (by Defra)
Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and
Technological Advice
Scottish Executive
Scottish Environment Protection Agency
Sulphur oxides
Spawning Stock Biomass
United Nations Commission on Sustainable
Development
United Nations Environment Programme
Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive
Welsh Assembly
EC Water Framework Directive
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
1
Introduction
The UK Government has developed a range of policies and
introduced statutory and non-statutory measures for the conservation
of marine biodiversity in recent decades. Some of these are a response
to global and European obligations, such as the Convention on
Biological Diversity (CBD) and the EC Habitats1 and EC Birds2
Directives, and others are part of a national agenda, such as the legal
framework to establish Marine Nature Reserves, which was set out in
the 1981 Wildlife & Countryside Act.
There are many reports which give details of measures and policies,
and the extent to which they have been introduced (eg Anon, 1994a;
DoE, 1995; Defra 2002a). What is less clear is how effective the various
actions have been in achieving particular conservation objectives. To
help answer this question, policy objectives need to be stated clearly
and procedures for reporting and assessing progress towards these
objectives are needed. Two useful tools for this task are the setting of
targets and use of performance indicators. This approach is now the
norm within Government in the UK and includes environmental
targets and indicators, which can inform decision-making and help
measure and report on environmental changes and progress towards
environmental goals and objectives which are a part of the UK
Government’s policy of sustainable development.
The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development (also known as the Rio or ‘Earth Summit’) promoted the
use of indicators in its publication ‘Agenda 21’3. This called on
national governments, as well as international, organisations to
develop and identify indicators of sustainable development, and to
incorporate a suitable set of these indicators in common, regularly
updated and widely accessible reports and databases. These
indicators would ideally cover environmental, economic and social
issues which are recognised as being the three ‘pillars’ of sustainable
development.
Since the Earth Summit, indicators have become an integral part of
setting goals, monitoring, and reporting on environmental and
sustainable development policies in many countries, including the
UK.
The UN Commission on Sustainable Development has published and
is continuing to develop proposals for indicators, including
environmental indicators. Within the European Union, the 5th
Environmental Action Programme (5EAP) identified the need for
Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural
habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive)
2 Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild
birds (Birds Directive)
1
3
http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/documents/agenda21/english/agenda21toc.htm
7
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
environmentally relevant statistics connected to economic data to
provide guidance for a strategy towards sustainability. A European
Commission Communication on environmental indicators4 was
published in 1994 and a work programme was initiated which
included the development of a European System of Environmental
Pressure Indices as well as integrated economic and Environmental
Indices (EC, 1996). ‘State of the Environment’ Reports, published by
the European Environment Agency (EEA), an agency which collates,
distributes and provide environmental data for the European
Commission, also makes use of environmental indicators.
The UK Government recognised the potential benefit of using
indicators of a range of environmental and sustainable development
issues in its Sustainable Development Strategy published in 1994 (Anon,
1994b). This stated that:
“Properly constructed, [indicators] could measure performance against
agreed targets and objectives, and assist governments and the public to
evaluate how well national environmental policies and international
commitments are being met”.
Around the same time, a consortium of environmental groups
produced a report promoting the use of indicators to describe and
monitor the state of the UK environment. The ‘Environmental
Challenge’ group proposed a number of possible indicators for three
fundamental aspects of sustainable development – biodiversity;
quality of life; and the UK footprint abroad (MacGillivray & Kayes,
1994).
A preliminary set of sustainable development indicators was
published by the UK in 1996 and subsequently refined into a list of
more than 130 indicators in 1999. Some of these are distinguished as
‘headline’ indicators “to provide a high level overview of progress and be a
powerful tool for simplifying and communicating the main messages for the
public”. The indicators are grouped into eighteen ‘families’ or
‘baskets’, six of which come under the exclusively environmental
theme of “protection of the environment” (DETR, 1999). In 2002, Defra
set up a UK Biodiversity Indicators Forum and the second meeting in
2003 had the specific remit of exchanging information, identifying
opportunities for co-operation and co-ordination, and discussing how
an indicator on marine biodiversity might be developed.
Regional and local bodies have also been using indicators to help
report on progress towards sustainable development, including
specific environmental indicators. One example is the regional
sustainable development framework for the south west of England
4
8
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European
Parliament on ‘Directions for the EU on Environmental Indicators and Green
National Accounting’ (COM (94) 670 final, 21 December 1994).
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
which has proposed indicators under sixteen themes, one of which is
‘the coast and the maritime environment’ (SWRA, 2001).
While most environmental indicators describe the quality of a
particular aspect of the environment, a more recent trend has been to
try to identify indicators that reflect and report on ecosystem structure
and function. These are often grouped into a ‘basket’ or suite of
indicators. This approach is in line with a desire for a more
ecosystem-based approach to management that is being advocated by
many fora and organisations, and is particularly relevant to the
marine environment. For example:
The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) have
recommended that indicators should be closely linked to human
activities with a move from indicators of very specific states, to those
which reflect ecosystem health and function.
As part of the work on the European Marine Strategy (under the 6th
European Action Programme of the European Union), a working
group is preparing guidance on an ecosystem approach to the
management of human activities in the marine environment. The
necessary steps are seen as including the use of ecosystem indicators
and reference points to assess the performance towards integrated
management of the marine environment.
The UK Government’s Marine Stewardship Report Safeguarding our
Seas supports an ecosystem-based approach to management of the
marine environment and states that the UK will develop a framework
of environmental indicators to provide an integrated assessment of
the state of the marine environment (Defra, 2002a).
Papers submitted by stakeholders to the Government’s ‘Review of
Marine Nature Conservation’ in England and Wales have highlighted
the importance of developing a framework for assessing the minimum
suite of indicators that are needed to provide a meaningful assessment
of the health of maritime ecosystems and the sustainability of human
activities (Laffoley, et al., 2003).
Using the many existing and proposed indicators of aspects of the UK
marine environment as a starting point, a suite of indicators can be
highlighted to allow managers to measure progress towards the UK’s
marine environmental goals, objectives and targets.
The aim of this report is to facilitate the identification of a meaningful
suite of marine environmental indicators of the biodiversity aspects
of ecosystem health in the UK, by providing:
•
•
An introduction to environmental indicators and the criteria used
for their identification;
A set of criteria against which to assess the suitability of indicators
of biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health;
9
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
•
•
10
An assessment of the potential of existing and proposed marine
indicators against the above criteria (including national and
international marine indicators used by the UK); and
Proposals for a coherent ‘basket’ or suite of indicators for the
biodiversity aspects of marine ecosystem health for use in the UK
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
1.1
Environmental indicators
Indicators have been used for many years to describe a particular
aspect of the environment in order to guide policy and management
decisions (Box 1). At the heart of the approach is the desire for a
simple and quantifiable way of describing a complex situation.
BOX 1: DEFINITIONS & ROLE OF ENVIRONMENTAL INDICATORS
“A variable, pointer or index. Its fluctuation reveals key elements of a
system. The position and trend of the indicator in relation to
reference points or values indicates the present state and dynamics of
the system. Indicators provide a bridge between objectives and
actions”
(FAO, 1999)
Indicators are central to the monitoring and reporting of progress
towards sustainable development.
(Defra, 2004b)
“Indicators serve four basic functions: simplification, quantification,
standardisation and communication. They summarise complex and
often disparate sets of data and thereby simplify information. They
should be based on comparable scientific observations or statistical
measures. They should provide a clear message that can be
communicated to, and used by, decision makes and the general
public.”
(UNEP, 2003)
Many indicators describe the quality of a particular aspect of the
environment, such as the level of nitrate and phosphate pollution in a
watercourse, PCBs in sediment, and emissions of SOx and NOx to the
atmosphere. However, in recent years, the emphasis has moved from
concentrating on one element of the ecosystem to seeking indicators
that reveal how ecosystems as a whole are functioning.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD) was a major force in developing thinking on environmental
indicators in the early 1990s as it looked for ways of integrating
environmental and economic decision-making. Indicators were seen
as an important tool to help achieve this integration, and they were
developed by the OECD to help its members improve their individual
and collective performance in environmental management. This was
an important step in bringing environmental matters into OECD
policies, which include achieving the highest sustainable economic
growth and contributing to sound economic expansion. A report,
published in 1993, provided a framework, guidance and consistency
on the development and use of environmental indicators, and
11
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
proposed a core set of indicators for environmental performance
reviews that could be used by OECD Members (OECD, 1993).
The framework set out by the OECD is known as the Pressure–State–
Response (PSR) approach. This highlights links between human
activities that exert pressures on the environment, which change its
quality or quantity (the state) and to which society responds through
environmental, economic and sectoral policies. The latter, in turn
have a feedback effect on the initial pressures (Figure 1.1).
Figure 1.1: Illustration of the Pressure–State–Response
framework developed by the OECD (OECD, 1993)
PRESSURE
STATE
RESPONSE
Information
HUMAN
ACTIVITIES
STATE OF THE
ENVIRONMENT & OF
NATURAL RESOURCES
Pressures
ECONOMIC &
ENVIRONMENTAL
AGENTS
Information
ENERGY
TRANSPORT
HOUSEHOLDS
WATER
INDUSTRY
ENTERPRISES
LAND
AGRICULTURE
OTHERS
ADMINISTRATIONS
AIR
Resources
LIVING RESOURCES
Societal Responses
(Decisions – Actions)
INTERNATIONAL
Societal Responses (Decisions – Actions)
Using this model, OECD distinguished between indicators of
environmental pressures (eg emissions of CO2) indicators of
environmental conditions (eg atmospheric concentrations of
greenhouse gasses) and societal response (eg energy use).
There are a number of variations on this approach, one of which is the
‘Driving Force–Pressure–State–Impact–Response’ model (DPSIR),
which is used by most Member States of the European Union and by
the European Environment Agency (EEA) to provide an overall
framework for analysing environmental issues (Figure 1.2).
12
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
Figure 1.2: The DPSIR Framework for Reporting on Environmental
Issues (EEA, 1998)
eg Industry & Transport
Drivers
Responses
Pressures
eg Polluting Emissions
eg Clean Production,
Public Transport,
Regulations,
Taxes,
Information etc
Impact
State
eg Ill health,
Biodiversity loss,
Economic Damage
eg Air, Water, Soil Quality
Within this framework the environmental indicators used by the
European Environment Agency have been categorised into four types:
•
•
•
•
Type A: descriptive indicators of what is happening to the
environment or human health eg emissions and concentrations of
pollutants
Type B: performance indicators linked to a reference value or
policy target, illustrating how far the indicator is from a desired
level
Type C: efficiency indicators illustrating the efficiency of
production and consumption processes, eg energy consumption
per unit of output
Type D: total welfare indicators which aggregate together
economic, social and environmental dimensions to illustrate
whether, overall, welfare is increasing.
Out of a list of more than 100 environmental indicators listed by the
EEA, the majority fall into the first category. No Type D indicators
have been defined as yet.
Work on environmental indicators is also being undertaken under the
auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). An expert
group has been established and has produced a report containing a set
of principles to guide the development of indicators, a set of key
questions with reference to the relevant articles of the Convention and
a list of tested indicators. A summary of the progress to date can be
13
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
found in a report to the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and
Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the Convention (UNEP, 2003)
Table 1: UK Sustainable Development Strategy objectives and
headline indicators (DETR, 1999).
THEMES, ISSUES & OBJECTIVES
HEADLINE INDICATORS
Maintaining high and stable levels of economic growth and employment
our economy must continue to grow
investment (in modern plant and machinery as well as
research and development) is vital to our future
prosperity
maintain high and stable levels of employment so
everyone can share greater job opportunities
total output of the economy (GDP and
GDP per head)
total and social investment as a
percentage of GDP
proportion of people of working age
who are in work
Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone
tackling poverty and social exclusion
indicators of success in tackling poverty
and social exclusion (children in low
income households, adults without
qualifications and in workless
households, elderly in fuel poverty)
equip people with the skills to fulfil their potential
qualifications at age 19
improve health of the population overall
expected years of healthy life
reduce the proportion of unfit (housing) stock
homes judged unfit to live in
reduce both crime and people's fear of crime
level of crime
Effective protection of the environment
continue to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases
now, and plan for greater reductions in longer term
emissions of greenhouse gases
reduce air pollution and ensure air quality continues to
improve through the longer term
days when air pollution is moderate or
higher
improve choice in transport; improve access to
education, jobs leisure and services; and reduce the
need to travel
road traffic
improving river quality
rivers of good or fair quality
reverse the long-term decline in populations of
farmland and woodland birds
populations of wild birds
re-using previously developed land, in order to protect
the countryside and encourage urban regeneration
new homes built on previously
developed land
Prudent use of natural resources
move away from disposal of waste towards waste
minimisation, reuse, recycling and recovery
14
waste arisings and management
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
In the UK, indicators have been defined to measure progress towards
sustainable development rather than purely environmental goals. A
distinction is made between fifteen ‘headline’ indicators and
approximately 135 ‘non-headline’ indicators, the latter of which are
grouped into 18 ‘families’ (Table 1). The expert working groups who
developed the UK indicators felt that the DPSIR model was a useful
analytical tool, particularly in developing indicators which reflected
the environmental impacts of a particular sector, but that a broader
framework more suitable to sustainable development was needed for
the UK. They also expressed the view that most non-technical users
would find it confusing when used explicitly in presenting the
indicators. However, where possible, the environmental indicators
have been classified according to the DPSIR model (DETR, 1999).
15
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
1.2
Identification of indicators
Much has been written about the qualities of a successful indicator
and the criteria that can be used to guide the selection of an ‘ideal’
indicator (Box 2). While not all criteria are likely to be met on every
occasion, the main themes or messages that emerge are that indicators
have to be simple, measurable and responsive.
Ultimately, the criteria for identifying suitable indicators must relate
to the reasons for using them. In the UK (DETR, 1999), the national
core set of indicators is intended:
•
•
•
•
•
•
16
to describe, overall, whether we are achieving sustainable
development
to highlight key national-scale policy initiatives relevant to
sustainable development and to monitor whether we are meeting
key targets and commitments in those areas
to educate the public about what sustainable development means
to raise public and business awareness of particular actions which
they need to take in order to achieve more sustainable
development
to report progress to international audiences
to help to make transparent the trade-offs and synergies between
sustainable development objectives.
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
BOX 2: THREE EXAMPLES OF GUIDANCE FOR THE SELECTION OF INDICATORS
CBD
Principles for choosing
indicators:
Policy relevant and
meaningful
Biodiversity relevant –
addressing key
properties of
biodiversity or
related issues as state,
pressures, responses,
use or capacity
Scientific sound
Broad acceptance
Affordable monitoring
Affordable modelling
Sensitive – to show
trends and, where
possible, permit
distinction between
human-induced and
natural changes
Representative – the set
of indicators should
provide a
representative picture
of the pressures,
biodiversity state,
responses, uses and
capacity
Small number – the
fewer indicators the
more communicable
they are to policy
makes and the public
and the lower the cost
Aggregation &
Flexibility –
indicators should be
designed in a way
that facilitates
aggregation at a
range of scale for
different purposes.
EEA
Useful qualities of
environmental
indicators are:
Relevancy pertains to
the closeness of the
operational definition of
the indicator to the
environmental problem
to be measured, the
methodology chosen and
the relevancy of the
breakdown published;
Overall accuracy
represents issues such as
comparability of data,
reliability of data
sources, coverage of the
indicator, reliability of
the methodology used
and whether the results
could be validated
(sensitivity analysis;
confirmation through
other data or
approaches);
Comparability over
time deals with the
number of time series
that were found and
their comparability (eg
consistency of
methodology over time);
Comparability over
space relates to the
number of Member
States that are
represented in the
indicator and the
geographical coverage
and reliability of data
within the countries.
DETR
Scientific & technical
criteria for
indicators:
• be representative
• be scientifically
valid;
• be simple and
easy to interpret;
• show trends over
time;
• give early
warning about
irreversible
trends where
possible;
• be sensitive to the
changes it is
meant to indicate;
• be based on
readily available
data or be
available at
reasonable cost;
• be based on data
adequately
documented and
of known quality;
• be capable of
being updated at
regular intervals;
• have a target
level or guideline
against which to
compare it
Sources: UNEP (2003); EEA (2002); DETR (1999).
17
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
1.3 Selecting environmental indicators with reference to the
ecosystem approach, and the UK vision for the marine
environment
An ecosystem-based approach to managing the marine environment
is recognised by many governments as being essential to achieving
sustainable development. The UK formally endorsed this approach at
the 5th North Sea Conference (5NSC)5 in March 2002 and has set out
what this means in practice in the Government’s first Marine
Stewardship Report, Safeguarding Our Seas (Defra, 2002a) (see Box 3).
The report also states that the ecosystem approach will be at the heart
of the UK’s strategy for reconciling conservation objectives with
individual needs.
BOX 3: DEFINITIONS OF THE “ECOSYSTEM-BASED APPROACH” TO
MANAGEMENT
“a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living
resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an
equitable way”
(Convention on Biological Diversity, 5th Conference of the Parties, May 2000)
“the comprehensive integrated management of human activities
based on best available scientific knowledge about the ecosystem and
its dynamics, in order to identify and take action on influences which
are critical to the health of the marine ecosystems, thereby achieving
sustainable use of ecosystem goods and services and maintenance of
ecosystem integrity”
(Bergen Declaration, 5NSC, March 2002)
“An ecosystem-based approach to management represents a new and
more strategic way of thinking. It puts the emphasis on a
management regime that maintains the health of ecosystems
alongside appropriate human use of the marine environment, for the
benefit of current and future generations.”
(Safeguarding Our Seas, Defra, 2002a)
“the comprehensive integrated management of human activities
based on best available scientific knowledge about the ecosystem and
its dynamics, in order to identify and take action on influences which
are critical to the health of the marine ecosystems, thereby achieving
sustainable use of ecosystem goods and services and maintenance of
ecosystem integrity.”
(European Marine Strategy, Køge Stakeholder Conference, December 2002)
5
18
Bergen Declaration. The 5th International Conference on the Protection of the
North Sea, 20-21 March 2002, Bergen, Norway.
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
BOX 4: VISION & OBJECTIVES FOR THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT
– HIGHLIGHTING THOSE MOST RELEVANT TO BIODIVERSITY ASPECTS OF ECOSYSTEM
MANAGEMENT (UNDERLINED)
UK vision for the MARINE ENVIRONMENT (from the Marine Stewardship Report, Safeguarding Our
Seas) (Defra, 2002a)
• We depend on the oceans and seas to help meet our economic and social needs. At the same
time, they contain unique habitats and diverse forms of life.
• Our vision is one of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.
Within one generation, we want to have made a real difference by building on the progress
already made.
• We are putting an ecosystem approach at the heart of our strategy to reconcile conservation
objectives and individual needs.
• We will deliver our vision by pursuing policies that promote sustainable development,
integrated management, stakeholder involvement, robust science and the precautionary
principles.
UK Government goals for the MARINE ENVIRONMENT (from Defra’s response to the Seas of Change
consultation) (Defra, 2004a)
• To conserve and enhance the overall quality of our seas, their natural processes and their
biodiversity;
• To use marine resources in a sustainable and environmentally sensitive manner in order to
conserve ecosystems and achieve optimum environmental, social and economic benefit from
the marine environment;
• To promote and encourage environmentally sustainable use of natural resources to ensure
long term economic benefits and sustainable employment;
• To increase our understanding of the marine environment, its natural processes and our
cultural marine heritage and the impact that human activities have upon them; and
• To promote public awareness, understanding and appreciation of the value of the marine
environment and seek active public participation in the development of new policies.
Goals for MARINE NATURE CONSERVATION proposed by the RMNC (derived from the first two
strategic goals for the marine environment in Seas of Change) (Defra 2002b)
• to halt the deterioration in the state of the UK’s marine biodiversity and to promote recovery
where practicable;
• to further the conservation, where practicable, of marine features which have a key role in
contributing to biodiversity and providing essential habitats to support the variety of marine
life and the benefits derived from it;
• to maintain the water quality of the marine environment, to protect its physical and
oceanographic processes, to support biodiversity, and achieve good ecological status;
• to integrate marine nature conservation into human activities and plans affecting the marine
environment to effectively deliver an ecosystem approach consistent with the wider goals for
the marine environment; and
• to increase and broaden understanding and the application of knowledge about marine
ecosystems to provide the best available information for policy development and decision
making processes, and to promote understanding among stakeholders.
19
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
The Marine Stewardship Report also set out a vision for the marine
environment. This vision has been picked up and developed further
through a government consultation paper, Seas of Change, on the first
Marine Stewardship Report and by the Marine Stewardship process in
general (Defra 2002b; 2004a). In addition, the Government’s Review
of Marine Nature Conservation (RMNC), a committee examining the
effectiveness of the system for protecting wildlife and habitats in the
marine environment, has developed the vision, specifically for marine
nature conservation. The Government’s vision and objectives provide
the context for the development of environmental indicators (Box 4).
Environmental indicators should also ideally support the ecosystembased approach to management. One way this could be done is for
them to provide a meaningful assessment of the ‘health’ of marine
ecosystems, which is frequently cited in definitions of an ecosystembased approach (Box 5).
BOX 5: DEFINITIONS OF ECOSYSTEM HEALTH
Definitions of ecosystem health have included:
• Health as homeostasis (maintenance of constancy or a high
degree of uniformity under changing conditions)
• Health as the absence of disease
• Health as diversity or complexity of the ecosystem
• Health as stability or resilience
• Health as vigour or scope for growth
• Health as a balance between components of the ecosystem
“A healthy ecosystem is one that is sustainable – that is, it has the
ability to maintain its structure (organisation) and function (vigour)
over time in the face of external stress (resilience). A healthy system
must also be defined in light of both its context (the large system of
which it is a part) and its components (the smaller systems that make
it up)” (Costanza & Mageau, 1999).
“Ecosystem health refers to the capability of an ecosystem to support
and maintain a productive and resilient community of organisms
that has a species composition, diversity and functional organisation
comparable to the natural habitat of the region. Such an ecosystem is
capable of providing a range of ecological goods and services to
people and other species in amounts and at rates comparable to those
that could be provided by a similar undisturbed ecosystem.”
(Palumbi, 2003).
The conservation of ecosystem structure and function is another
recurring theme, as well as being a component of ecosystem health,
and is one of the twelve principles recommended by the Conference
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of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as a guide
to signatory countries in the practical application of the ecosystem
approach. If agreement can be reached on realistic and practical
measures of ecosystem health, structure and function, such measures
could be used as a checklist against which to assess the usefulness of
potential environmental indicators. A number of frameworks and
definitions already exist and may provide the basis of such a checklist.
In 1990, Ministers at the 3rd North Sea Conference (3NSC)6 supported
a decision “to elaborate techniques for the development of ecological
objectives for the North Sea and its coastal waters”. Since then a
conceptual framework for describing Ecological Quality and setting
‘Ecological Quality Objectives’ (EcoQOs) has been developed under
the auspices of the Oslo-Paris Convention for the Protection of the
Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic (OSPAR). The
proposed suite of EcoQOs was selected to reflect five basic ‘ecosystem
properties’ and is linked to structure and functional aspects of marine
ecosystems. These are:
•
•
•
•
•
Resilience
Stability
Productivity
Diversity
Tropic structure
An example from the UK (Laffoley, et al., 2003), is the crossreferencing of potential environmental indicators to a number of
‘ecosystem components’:
•
•
•
•
•
Food webs
– Productivity
– Trophic structure
Species assemblages
Habitats
Species
Maintaining the gene pool
The clear message from these different approaches to selecting
environmental indicators with reference to the ecosystem-based
approach is that, in common with indicators used in other fields (eg
sustainable development, economic growth, social well-being),
a suite of indicators rather than a single one will be
needed to adequately report on ecosystem health,
structure and function.
6
The Hague Declaration. The 3rd International Conference on the Protection of
the North Sea, 7-8 March 1990, The Hague, The Netherlands.
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The recurring themes in these different approaches are vigour,
structure, and resilience. These are defined in Table 2, together with
potential elements linked to biodiversity which could help describe
them. It should be noted that these elements may be relevant to more
than one theme, and that the list is illustrative rather than
comprehensive. In Section 3, a qualitative assessment of the relevance
of existing indicators, which apply to the UK, to these elements is
made in order to identify those that are likely to be most useful for
reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health.
Table 2: Examples of possible indicators of ecosystem resilience,
structure and vigour
22
POTENTIALLY USEFUL
ELEMENTS OF RELEVANT
INDICATOR
THEME
DEFINITION
Ecosystem
resilience
the ability of an ecosystem to
resist change and recover
after a disturbance.
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
Ecosystem
structure
the interactions between
components of the ecosystem
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
Ecosystem
vigour
a measure of the activity,
metabolism and productivity
of an ecosystem
Productivity
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2
Marine environmental indicators
The last decade has seen the development and use of a large number
of indicators, to report on the state of the environment and on
progress towards specific policy targets. Those most likely to be
relevant to reporting on biodiversity aspects of marine ecosystem
management from the existing ‘indicator lists’, are concerned with
sustainable development and/or biodiversity (Table 3).
Table 3: Key existing ‘indicator lists’ relevant to marine
biodiversity/sources
ORGANISATION
Department of Environment
Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)
LEVEL
POLICY AREA
STATUS
England
England Biodiversity
Strategy
Current set available
UK
UK Sustainable
Development Strategy
Welsh Assembly (WA)
Wales
Sustainable
development
Under development
Scottish Executive (SE)
Scotland
Sustainable
development
Current set available
Environment Agency (EA)
England &
Wales
Water (freshwater,
estuarine and marine)
Current set available
Scottish Environment
Protection Agency (SEPA)
Scotland
Sustainable
development
Current set available
European Environment
Agency (EEA)
European
Water and Fisheries
indicators
Current set available
European Commission,
Directorate General Fisheries
(EC-DG FISH)
European
Environmental
integration of Common
Fisheries Policy
Under development
European Commission –
Biodiversity Action Plan (EC
BAP)
European
European Commission
Biodiversity Strategy;
Biodiversity Action Plan
for Fish
Under development
OSPAR (Oslo & Paris
Commission)
NE Atlantic
Ecological Quality
Objectives (EcoQOs)
Under development
Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and
Development (OECD)
International
Sustainable
development
Current set available
United Nations Commission
on Sustainable Development
(UNCSD)
International
Sustainable
Development
Current set available
United Nations Environment
Programme/Convention on
Biological Diversity
(UNEP/CBD)
International
Progress towards 2010
Biodiversity Target
Under development
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This section of the report brings together information on existing,
relevant, Type A (descriptive) marine indicators, and assesses them
against the checklist of parameters developed in Section 1.3 to identify
those which have most potential to describe the biodiversity aspects of
ecosystem health, structure and function in the marine environment.
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2.1
International marine environmental indicators relevant to
the UK
International organisations have played a key role in the development
and promotion of environmental indicators. In the 1980’s, the
emphasis was on finding indicators of the quality of terrestrial
environments, freshwater systems, and the atmosphere. Interest in
marine environmental indicators was limited but this has changed
with time, and marine indicators are used routinely today.
The main international bodies who have developed the marine
environmental indicators that are influencing the national programme
in the UK are the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD), United Nations Commission on Sustainable
Development (UNCSD), United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP), and the Oslo & Paris Commission (OSPAR).
Within UNCSD and OECD the emphasis has been on sustainable
development indicators, which includes some environmental
indicators, but with poor coverage of marine aspects which is limited
to fisheries (Table 4).
Table 4: Marine environmental indicators promoted by the
UNCSD and OECD (OECD, 1993; UNCSD, 2003)
ORGANISATION
THEME
INDICATOR
Algal concentration in coastal waters
UNCSD
Oceans, seas
and coasts
OECD
Fish resources Fish catches
Annual catch by major species
In the case of UNEP, indicators are being used to assess progress
towards agreed targets in the implementation of the Convention on
Biological Diversity and their development is being supported by the
Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice
(SBSTTA). Those listed in Table 5 are most likely to be relevant to any
developing UK programme on marine biodiversity.
The work of OSPAR on environmental indicators stems from the 3rd
North Sea Conference (3NSC), and resulted in a number of workshops
being held under the auspices of the North Sea Task Force7 and
OSPAR, with assistance from ICES, to help develop the concept of
ecological objectives for the North Sea. Ecological Quality Objectives
(EcoQOs) have been developed for ten issues covering structural and
quality aspects of marine ecosystems with work most advanced on
EcoQOs for commercial fish species, sea mammals and seabirds.
7
North Sea Task Force – set up by North Sea State Governments to assess the
patterns of inputs and dispersion of contaminants, ecological conditions and
effects of human activities.
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Table 5: Provisional indicators, relevant to marine biodiversity, to
assess progress towards the 2010 Biodiversity Targets under the
Convention on Biological Diversity (UNEP, 2004).
POSSIBLE INDICATORS FOR
FOCAL AREA
INDICATOR FOR
DEVELOPMENT BY SBSTTA
IMMEDIATE TESTING
OR WORKING GROUPS OF
THE CBD
Status and
trends of the
components of
biological
diversity
•
•
•
Sustainable
use
Trends in extent
of selected
biomes,
ecosystems and
habitats
Trends in
abundance and
distribution of
selected species
Coverage of
protected areas
•
•
Change in status of
threatened species (Red
List indicator under
development)
Trends in genetic
diversity of
domesticated animals,
cultivated plants and
fish species of major
socio-economic
importance
•
Area of forest,
agricultural and
aquaculture ecosystems
under sustainable
management
---
Threats to
Biodiversity
•
Nitrogen
deposition
•
Number and cost of
alien invasions
Ecosystem
integrity/
ecosystem
goods and
services
•
Marine trophic
index
Water quality in
aquatic
ecosystems
•
Application to
freshwater and
possibly other
ecosystems
Connectivity/fragmenta
tion of ecosystems
•
•
The OSPAR Commission meeting in July 2003 agreed to use EcoQOs
“as a tool for setting clear operational environmental objectives directed
towards specific management and serving as indicators for the ecosystem
health”. A pilot project is establishing baselines and determining
whether the objectives are being met in the North Sea for ten of the
EcoQOs (underlined in Table 6). The aim is to develop the remaining
elements in 2004, and for OSPAR and ICES to review this work in
2005.
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Table 6: OSPAR Ecological Quality Objectives as indicators of
marine ecosystem health. (EcoQOs being advanced in a North
Sea pilot project underlined) (Anon, 2002)
ISSUE
Reference points
for commercial
fish species
ECOLOGICAL QUALITY ELEMENT
Spawning stock biomass of commercial fish
species
Threatened &
Presence and extent of threatened and declining
declining species
species in North Sea
Seal population trends in the North Sea,
Sea mammals
Utilisation of seal breeding sites in the North Sea,
By-catch of harbour porpoises
Proportion of oiled common guillemots among
those found dead or dying on beaches,
Mercury concentrations in seabird eggs and
feathers,
Sea birds
Organochlorine concentrations in seabird eggs,
Plastic particles in stomachs of seabirds,
Local sandeel availability to black-legged
kittiwakes,
Seabird populations trends as an index of seabird
community health
Fish communities
Benthic
communities
Changes in the proportion of large fish and hence
the average weight and average maximum
length of the fish community
Changes/kills in zoobenthos in relation to
eutrophication,
Imposex in dog whelk (Nucella lapillus),
Density of sensitive (eg fragile) species,
Density of opportunistic species
Plankton
communities
Habitats
Phytoplankton chlorophyll-a,
Phytoplankton indicator species for
eutrophication
Restore and/or maintain habitat quality
Nutrient budgets
Winter nutrient (DIN* and DIP†) concentrations
& production
Oxygen
consumption
Oxygen
* DIN – Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen; † DIP – Dissolved Inorganic Phosphorus
At a European level, a significant amount of work on indicators is
being carried out under the auspices of the European Commission as
a contribution to international programmes (such as the Convention
on Biodiversity) as well as in response to specific EU requirements
(such as assessing the incorporation of environmental aspects into the
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Common Fisheries Policy). Much of this is being guided by the
European Environment Agency (EEA), which publishes information
on environmental indicators in an annual ‘Environmental Signals’
report and in indicator-based reports covering specific sectors and
topics. The most recent State of the Environment Report was published
by the EEA in 1999 and the next one, due in 2005, will help report on
progress towards targets in the EU 6th Environmental Action
Programme (6EAP), a strategic document which identifies priorities
for action by setting key targets and timescales, including halting the
loss of biodiversity in Europe by 2010. The 1999 report included
eleven marine indicators (Table 7).
Table 7: Marine environmental indicators used by the European
Environment Agency to report on sustainable use of natural
resources and management of wastes (EEA, 2002)
MARINE INDICATORS
1
Spawning stock biomass of North Sea cod
2
Percentage of overfished stocks of commercial importance
3
Trends in average annual Chlorophyll-a summer
concentrations in European Seas
4
Fishing trends
5
Fisheries impacts – habitats & ecosystems
6
Classification of coastal waters
7
Hazardous substances in blue mussels in the NE Atlantic
8
Hazardous substances in marine organisms and loads to
coastal waters
9
Inputs of hazardous substances in the NE Atlantic
10
The North Sea cod stock
11
Trends in aquaculture
Two other particularly relevant areas of work at a European level are
the marine indicators being developed to as part of the Biodiversity
Action Plan for Fisheries to contribute to reporting on progress of the
EC Biodiversity Strategy, and the work of an ad hoc expert Group on
Indicators of Environmental Integration for the Common Fisheries
Policy (CFP) set up by DG FISH (Table 8). This work is currently at
the drafting stage.
The European Biodiversity Monitoring and Indicator Framework
(EBMI-F) provides an umbrella to bring together work of several
European organisations on this issue. One example is a Joint Meeting
of the European Environment Information and Observation Network
(EIONET), the International Working Group on Biodiversity
Indicators and Monitoring (IWG Bio-MIN) and the Pan-European
Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS) held in April
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2004. The aim is to work towards a practical implementation plan and
guidelines for a set of biodiversity indicators and related monitoring
at the European level which will meet the needs of policy and decision
makers to protect biodiversity in line with the various global, panEuropean and European Union agreements and targets.
Table 8: Fisheries related indicators being developed for use by
the European Union (EEA, 2004)
INDICATORS ON CONSERVATION MEASURES
WITHIN THE EU CFP
PROPOSED INDICATORS FOR EU FISHERIES
BIODIVERSITY ACTION PLAN
Proportion of commercial stocks that are
within safe biological limits
Fishing capacity of fleets
Proportion of a set of non-assessed
populations which are decreasing in number
% of fish stocks outside safe biological limits
Average size (length and weight) in the
community
Metrics of fish community structure
Mean trophic level
Fisheries effects on benthos
Mean maximum length
Accidental by-catch: birds, mammals and
turtles
Abundance of sensitive benthos species
Aquaculture impact on habitats, birds and
mammals
Area coverage of highly sensitive habitats
Multi-annual management plans in place
Total aquaculture production and total area
occupied by aquaculture installations
---
Water quality
---
Eco-efficiency of aquaculture
---
Impact of aquaculture on the genetic structure
of wild (fish) populations
---
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2.2
UK marine environmental indicators
Two interconnected streams of work have led to the development and
use of indicators relevant to biodiversity aspects of the health,
structure and function of the marine environment around the UK.
The first of these is concerned with UK policy and programmes on
sustainable development, and the second is work on biodiversity
conservation.
The framework and context for the development of environmental
indicators relating to sustainable development in the UK can be found
in two key documents; the UK Sustainable Development Strategy
(Anon 1994b) and a follow up report Quality of Life Counts (DETR,
1999). The most recent progress report, including the status of the
various indicators, was published in March 2004 (Defra, 2004b).
Table 9: UK sustainable development indicators relevant to the
marine environment as set out in Quality of Life Counts (DETR,
1999)
OBJECTIVE
UK INDICATOR
WELSH ASSEMBLY
(2000)
SCOTLAND
(2004)
‘Reduce or eliminate
inputs of hazardous
and radioactive
substances of most
concern’
Estuarine water
quality, marine
inputs
Recommended for
reporting in Wales
---
‘Aim to raise consistent
compliance with the
European Bathing
Water Directive’
Compliance with
Bathing Water
Directive
Recommended for
reporting in Wales
---
‘Protection of marine
habitats and species’
Biodiversity in
coastal/marine
areas
‘Improve the
management and
conservation of fish
stocks’
Fish stocks
around the UK
fished within safe
limits
Indicator to be
developed. Could
include areas
designated as pSACs
in the Welsh set
Fish stocks and
industry too mobile
for Wales – only data
to be meaningful
Work with other
countries to achieve
effective management
and conservation of
fish stocks’
State of the
world’s fisheries
Percentages of
biodiversity action plan
species and habitats
which are stable or
increasing
Proportion of fish stocks
which are within safe
biological limits
Global indicator
Not proposed for
reporting in Wales
---
The UK Sustainable Development Strategy recognised the need for
environmental indicators, and these were elaborated upon in Quality
of Life Counts, which also set out principles of sustainable
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development, actions and commitments by Government and thirteen
headline indicators. None of the headline indicators were specific to
the marine environment (see Section 1.1, Table 1) and only five of over
140 detailed indicators in the report, which are intended to act as a
benchmark against which to measure future progress, were marine.
Some of these indicators are also being used or proposed for use in
Scotland and Wales (Table 9). At the present time, none of the
twenty-nine local ‘quality of life’ indicators are specifically marine.
A key document that sets out the framework and context for
biodiversity indicators, including those for the marine environment to
meet the Rio Declaration ‘Agenda 21’ commitments, is the UK
Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) (Anon, 1994a). The BAP describes the
UK’s biological resources, strategy and programmes for conservation
and a programme of work towards specific objectives. Fourteen out
of fifty-nine proposed actions were relevant to the marine
environment. Since then, priority biodiversity action plans with
objectives and targets have been drawn up for nineteen maritime
habitats and seven groups/individual maritime species.
More detailed work has been done on biodiversity indicators with the
publication of the England Biodiversity Strategy, Working with the
Grain of Nature (Defra, 2003). This document has used existing
national biodiversity and sustainable development indicators where
possible and has seven indicators concerned with ‘coasts and seas’
(Table 10).
Table 10: Indicators on under the theme of coasts and seas in the
England Biodiversity Strategy (Defra, 2003)
HEADLINE INDICATOR
UK fish stocks fished within safe limits
DETAILED INDICATORS
•
•
•
•
•
•
Populations of coastal and seabirds
Condition of coastal SSSIs
Status of coastal and marine BAP priority species and habitats
Status of marine biodiversity
Inputs of hazardous substances to the marine environment
Levels of cetacean by-catch in UK waters
The details of how these indicators will be measured and reported on
have been agreed in all cases except for the indicator on the status of
marine biodiversity. The latter was the subject of a meeting of the UK
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Biodiversity Indicators Forum in June 2003, where approaches and
options for a marine biodiversity indicator were discussed and set in
the context of existing initiatives at international level. A small
Government led working group will be taking this forward.
The evolving nature of this work and the influence of international
initiatives as well as sustainable development programmes on
environmental indicators have inevitably resulted in overlap in both
the theme and detail of some of these indicators. In the following
section the indicators are grouped under the thematic headings of
fisheries, biodiversity and water quality, and they are checked against
the elements described in Section 1.3, which are those that are likely to
be most relevant to reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem
health in the UK, ie ecosystem resilience, structure and vigour.
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3
Review of indicators
This section of the report provides a brief summary of marine
environmental indicators which are in use or proposed for use in the
UK or by European and international bodies. In each case, the
relevance of the indicator as a measure of ecosystem resilience,
structure and vigour is indicated, and forms the basis of the
recommendations made in Section 4.
The indicators are grouped under three thematic headings; fisheries
(Section 3.1), biodiversity (Section 3.2) and water quality (Section 3.3),
and a number of sub-themes, with information provided on their use
internationally and in the UK.
The information on each indicator is standardised under the following
headings:
Issue: A statement of the issue which the indicator is intended to
report upon.
Policy Objective: The main objective which the indicator is intended to
inform.
Explanatory notes: An explanation of the measurement used to report
on the indicator’s status or trend.
Illustration: A figure or graph, which shows the indicator status or
trend over time.
Similar indicators used or proposed internationally: Similar indicators
under the (sub-) theme are listed here rather than having a separate
entry for every indicator. The lead organisation is shown in brackets.
Similar indicators used in the UK: A list of the similar indicators used in
various policy fora in the UK with the lead organisation and source in
brackets.
UK Issue: A statement of the issue to which the indicator is linked in
the UK.
UK Policy Objective: The policy to which the indicator is linked in the
UK.
Explanatory note: An explanation of the UK indicator.
Illustration of use in the UK: A figure or graph which shows the
indicator status or trend over time.
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A checklist at the end of each section shows the relevance of the
indicator against those elements of ecosystem health (discussed and
defined in Section 1.3) that the indicators help to describe. The
qualitative approach to assessments such as this has its limitations,
but it does make it possible to illustrate an approach and give an idea
of the potential value of a long list of indicators.
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Review of Marine Indicators – Contents
3.1 Fisheries indicators
36
3.1.1 State of Commercial Fish Stocks
3.1.1.1 Indicator: Percentage of overfished stocks of
commercial importance
36
3.1.1.2 Indicator: North Sea cod stocks
3.1.1.3 Indicator: Fish catches by major species and
area
3.1.2 Aquaculture
3.1.2.1 Indicator: Trends in aquaculture
3.1.3 Aquaculture & fisheries interactions with
biodiversity
3.1.3.1 Indicator: Impact of aquaculture on the genetic
structure of wild (fish) populations (EC-DG
FISH – proposed)
3.1.3.2 Indicator: Accidental by-catch: birds,
mammals and turtles
3.1.4 Fish Community Structure
3.1.4.1 Indicator: Changes in proportion of large fish
and hence the average weight and average
maximum length of the fish community
(OSPAR EcoQO – proposed)
36
38
40
42
42
44
44
46
48
48
3.2 Biodiversity indicators
50
3.2.1 Species & Habitats
3.2.1.1 Indicator: Trends in abundance & distribution
of selected species (UNCED/CBD – proposed)
50
3.2.2 Community Structure
3.2.2.1 Indicator: Seabird population trends as an
index of seabird community health (OSPAR
EcoQO – proposed)
50
52
52
3.3 Water quality & pollution indicators
54
3.3.1 Water Quality
3.3.1.1 Indicator: Bathing water quality
3.3.2 Hazardous substances
3.3.2.1 Indicator: Hazardous substances in coastal
waters
54
54
57
3.3.2.2 Indicator: Hazardous substances in marine
organisms
3.3.3 Nutrients
3.3.3.1 Indicator: Chlorophyll-a in transitional, coastal
and marine waters
57
60
62
62
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3.1
Fisheries indicators
3.1.1
State of Commercial Fish Stocks
3.1.1.1 Indicator: Percentage of overfished stocks of commercial
importance
Issue: The status of fish stocks is an indicator of the health of fisheries
and of this component of the environment.
Policy Objective: EU policies, and in particular the Common Fisheries
Policy (CFP), aim for sustainable fishing over a long period. This is
sought through appropriate management of fisheries within a healthy
ecosystem, while offering stable economic and social conditions for all
those involved in the fishing industry.
Explanatory notes: In general terms fish stocks are characterised as
being outside safe biological limits (or overfished stocks) when the
fishing pressure (mortality) exerted on them, exceeds sustainable
levels ie when mortality exceeds recruitment and growth.
Illustration (Figure 3.1): The ratio of the number of overfished
stocks (used here to denote stocks outside safe biological limits)
to the number of commercial stocks (for which assessment of
their status has been carried out) per fishing area in the North
East Atlantic and Baltic (2002).
Refer to the inside of the back cover to see this map in colour.
Reference: European Environment Agency (2002) Environmental Signals
http://themes.eea.eu.int/Sectors_and_activities/fishery/indicators/stoc
ks/index_html (using data from ICES and FAO).
Similar indicators used or proposed internationally:
• Proportion of commercial stocks within safe biological limits
(proposed by EC-DG FISH)
• Percentage of fish stocks outside safe biological limits (proposed
by EC BAP)
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Similar indicators used in the UK:
• Fish stocks around UK fished within safe limits (Defra – QoL)
• UK fish stocks fished within safe limits (Defra – EBS)
• Proportion of fish stocks which are within safe biological limits
(SE)
UK Issue: Improving the management and conservation of fish stocks
UK Policy Objective: To protect this natural resource and to provide a
secure future for the UK fishing industry.
Explanatory notes: In general, a stock is considered to be outside safe
biological limits (SBL) when the spawning stock biomass (SSB) (the
mature part of a stock) is below a biomass precautionary approach
reference point (Bpa), or when the fishing mortality (F) (an expression
of the proportion of a stock that is removed by fishing activities in a
year) exceeds a fishing mortality precautionary approach reference
point (Fpa).
Illustration of use in the UK (Figure 3.2): Percentage of fish stocks
around the UK fished within safe limits 1998-2002.
35%
30%
Percent
25%
20%
15%
10%
5%
0%
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
Year
Reference: Defra (2003) Working with the grain of nature. A biodiversity
strategy for England (using data from CEFAS and ICES).
THEME
POTENTIALLY MEASURABLE
INDICATOR OF
ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
√
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
√
Ecosystem structure
Productivity
√
Ecosystem vigour
√
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3.1.1.2 Indicator: North Sea cod stocks
Issue: North Sea cod is one of the key fish stocks of the North East
Atlantic and it is used as an indicator of sustainability in multilateral
fish resource exploitation and management, because of its interest to a
number of member and non-member states of the European Union.
Policy Objective: EU policies, and in particular the Common Fisheries
Policy (CFP), aim for sustainable fishing over a long period. The
North Sea is one of the world’s most important fishing grounds with
about 20 commercially important species, 10 of which are sufficiently
abundant to support one or more distinct fisheries targeted at that
species. North Sea cod is one of the targeted stocks.
Explanatory notes: The assessment is based on a combination of data on
commercial landings, fishing mortality, stock recruitment and
spawning stock biomass (SSB).
Illustration (Figure 3.3): Trends in cod spawning stock biomass
and in fishing mortality
Stock size
Precautionary stock size advised by scientists
Fishing mortality
1.4
1.2
250000
1
200000
0.8
150000
0.6
100000
0.4
50000
0.2
0
0
1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
YEAR
Reference: EIONET (2004) Water and fisheries 2003 indicator fact sheets
review. Released: 2004/03/19 (using data from DG FISH 2003).
http://eea.eionet.eu.int:8980/Public/irc/eionetcircle/water/library?l=/products_eionet/2003_factsheets
38
Fishing mortality rate
Stock size measured in tonnes of mature fish
300000
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
Similar indicators used or proposed internationally:
• Spawning stock biomass of commercial species (OSPAR EcoQO)
Similar indicators used in the UK:
• SSB of cod is calculated as a component of fish stock assessments
relevant to UK fisheries but it is not highlighted as a specific UK
indicator of biodiversity or sustainable development.
THEME
POTENTIALLY
INDICATOR OF
MEASURABLE ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
√
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
√
Ecosystem structure
√
Productivity
√
Ecosystem vigour
39
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
3.1.1.3 Indicator: Fish catches by major species and area
Issue: The most obvious impact that fishing has on the ecosystem is
the removal of organisms – the catch. Ideally, a fishing impact
indicator would include all catches that are landed (landings) plus
catches that are returned because they are the wrong size, the wrong
species (discards) or the quota for that species has been reached.
Policy Objective: Policies are increasingly aiming to balance the amount
of fish removed against the stocks’ ability to cope with the effect of
artificially removing a particular proportion of the population. This
involves regulating the amount of fish that can be removed.
Explanatory notes: Total European capture production is reported by
this indicator and refers to landings (not including discards). The
EEA also defines a number of sub-indicators under this heading; fish
landings by major fish type (landings of demersal marine fish, pelagic
marine fish and shellfish account for an average of 95% of all
European landings), and landings by species for Atlantic cod (Gadus
morhua), Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) and North Atlantic
bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) because many countries exploiting
European marine waters have historically fished them.
Illustration (Figure 3.4): Total European landings by region
(tonnes), 1990 – 2000.
EU15+EFTA
AC13 + Balkans
12,000,000
Tonnes
10,000,000
8,000,000
6,000,000
4,000,000
2,000,000
0
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
YEAR
EU 15 + EFTA: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland,
Ireland, Italy, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK
AC13 + Balkans: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia,
Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey, Yugoslavia
Reference: EIONET (2004) Water and fisheries 2003 indicator fact sheets
review. Released: 2004/03/19 (using data from ICES and FAO Fishstat
Plus). http://eea.eionet.eu.int:8980/Public/irc/eionetcircle/water/library?l=/products_eionet/2003_factsheets
Similar indicators used or proposed internationally:
• Fish catches (OECD)
• Annual catch by major species (UNCSD)
• Fishing capacity of fleet (EC BAP)
40
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
Similar indicators used in the UK:
• State of world fisheries (Defra – QoL)
UK Issue: Fishing is carried out by many countries throughout the
world. To achieve globally sustainable fisheries there needs to be
international agreement and action. Development of a fishery can be
classified as a sequence of phases; undeveloped, where there is no
major fishing activity; developing, where yields are increasing;
mature, where there is a high level of exploitation and stocks are
fished beyond their maximum capacity; senescent, where stocks are
over-fished and yields are in decline and recovering.
UK Policy Objective: Working with other countries to achieve effective
management and conservation of fish stocks, as a contribution to the
protection of the global environment and global natural resources.
Illustration of use in the UK (Figure 3.5): Percentage of major
[world] marine fish resources in various phases of fishery
development 1951 – 2000
Phase 1 - Undeveloped
Phase 2 - Developed
Phase 4 - Senescent
Phase 5 - Recovering
Phase 3 - Mature
100
Percent
80
60
40
20
0
1951-55 1956-60 1961-65 1966-70 1971-75 1976-80 1981-85 1986-90 1991-95 19962000
YEAR
Reference: Defra (2004b) Quality of Life Counts – update (using data from
FAO). http://www.sustainabledevelopment.gov.uk/indicators/national/index.htm
THEME
POTENTIALLY
INDICATOR OF
MEASURABLE ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
√
√
Ecosystem structure
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
Ecosystem vigour
Productivity
√
41
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
3.1.2
Aquaculture
3.1.2.1 Indicator: Trends in aquaculture
Issue: European aquaculture production has continued to increase
rapidly during the last 10 years, due to expansion in the marine sector
in the EU and EFTA Countries. This represents a rise in pressure on
adjacent water bodies and associated ecosystems. The precise level of
local impact will vary according to production scale and techniques as
well as the hydrodynamics and chemical characteristics of the region.
Policy Objective: The newly reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)
(1 January 2003) aims to improve the management of the sector. In
September 2002, the Commission presented a communication on “A
strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture”8. The
main aim of the strategy is the maintenance of competitiveness,
productivity and sustainability of the European aquaculture sector.
Explanatory notes: Overall production is a simple and readily available
indicator of environmental pressure in its various dimensions.
However, as a stand-alone indicator, its meaning and relevance is
limited because of widely varying production practices and local
environmental conditions. It should be integrated with other
indicators relating to production practices to generate more specific
indicators of pressure (such as total nutrient production or total
chemical discharge). Coupled with information on assimilative
capacity of different habitats this would allow for estimation of
impact and ultimately the proportion of environmental carrying
capacity used and the limits to expansion. Sub-indicators include
production by country, major commercial species group, production
relative to coastline length, and contribution of nutrients from
aquaculture to total coastal nutrients loads.
Reference (Figure 3.6): EIONET (2004) Water and fisheries 2003 indicator
fact sheets review. Released: 2004/03/19 (using data from ICES and
FAO Fishstat Plus). http://eea.eionet.eu.int:8980/Public/irc/eionetcircle/water/library?l=/products_eionet/2003_factsheets
8
42
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European
Parliament (19 September 2002) A Strategy for the Sustainable Development of
European Aquaculture. COM(2002) 511 final
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
Illustration (Figure 3.6): Annual aquaculture production by major
area, 1990 – 2001 .
EU + EFTA Total
AC 13 + Balkans Total
2000
Production (1000 tonnes)
1800
1600
1400
1200
1000
800
600
400
200
0
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
YEAR
EU + EFTA: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece,
Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK, Iceland, Norway and
Switzerland.
AC 13 + Balkans: Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania,
Yugoslavia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta and Turkey. Luxembourg,
Liechtenstein and Bosnia-Herzegovina, are not included due to either no
aquaculture production or lack of data.
Similar indicators used or proposed internationally:
• Area of aquaculture ecosystems under sustainable management
(UNEP/CBD)
• Total aquaculture production and total area occupied by
aquaculture installations (EC-DG FISH)
• Eco-efficiency of aquaculture (EC-DG FISH)
Similar indicators used in the UK:
None
THEME
POTENTIALLY
INDICATOR OF
MEASURABLE ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
Ecosystem structure
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
Ecosystem vigour
Productivity
√
√
43
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
3.1.3
Aquaculture & fisheries interactions with biodiversity
3.1.3.1 Indicator: Impact of aquaculture on the genetic structure of
wild (fish) populations (EC-DG FISH – proposed)
Issue: The culture of sea fish and shellfish is a growth industry.
Associated concerns about effects on biodiversity include: the escape
of fish with potential associated problems of the spread of diseases,
ecological competition and genetic change; degradation of benthic
habitats beneath fish cages; inadvertent effects on the introduction of
antibiotic and other treatments for farmed fish on other species;
accidental introduction of non-native species and deliberate transfers
for mariculture purposes; and control of predators (eg birds and seals).
Policy Objective: Reducing and eliminating harmful effects of
aquaculture on marine biodiversity would support the conservation
objectives in the Convention on Biological Diversity as well as more
specific species and habitat conservation measures required under the
EU Habitats Directive and EU Birds Directive.
Explanatory notes: Agreement has still to be reached on which, if any,
of these proposed indicators should be taken forward. Details of how
they will be measured and reported on have therefore not been
agreed.
Illustration: No illustrations of status or trends are shown here, as the
indicators listed above are only proposal at the present time
Similar indicators proposed internationally:
• Aquaculture impact on habitats birds and mammals (EC BAP –
proposed)
• Aquaculture impact on benthos (DG FISH – proposed)
Similar indicators used in the UK
None
44
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
THEME
POTENTIALLY
INDICATOR OF
MEASURABLE ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
Ecosystem structure
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
Ecosystem vigour
Productivity
√
√
√
√
45
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
3.1.3.2 Indicator: Accidental by-catch: birds, mammals and turtles
Issue: The rates of accidental by-catch of turtles, marine mammals and
birds demonstrate a negative impact of fisheries on the marine
ecosystem.
Policy Objective: An ecosystem-based approach to fisheries
management is envisaged in the EU’s Common Fishery Policy (CFP),
as necessary to protect the vulnerable marine wildlife and habitats
required under legislation (eg the Birds Directive and the Habitats
Directive). A Council Regulation under the CFP introducing
Community-wide measures to reduce the by-catch of small cetaceans
was agreed in March 20049. To assess the achievement of sustainable
fishing, an indicator of the impact on non-target species will be vital.
Explanatory notes: This indicator reports on the rate of accidental bycatch of turtles, mammals and birds in the Mediterranean and North
Seas. Sub-indicators used by the EEA are by-catches of selected
fishing fleet activities (cetacean strandings due to by-catch as a
percentage of strandings on which post mortems were carried out;
marine turtle capture rates in selected areas of the Mediterranean; and
mean number of Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) caught
between 1994 and 1998 as a by-catch in Danish gillnet fisheries).
% Increase
Illustration (Figure 3.7): Increase (%) of accidental capture (ie bycatch) rates of mammals, birds and turtles in the 1990s
150
140
130
120
110
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
-10
129.59
141.07
87.26
-0.03
Turtles WM
Mammals WM
Birds WM
Porpoises NS
Western Mediterranean (WM) time coverage: 1999-2000;
North Sea (NS): 1990-1997
Reference: EIONET (2004) Water and fisheries 2003 indicator fact sheets
review. Released: 2004/03/19 (using data from McGlade & Metuzals
(2000) and Caminas & Valeiras (2001)).
http://eea.eionet.eu.int:8980/Public/irc/eionetcircle/water/library?l=/products_eionet/2003_factsheets
Similar indicators used or proposed internationally:
• By-catch of harbour porpoise (OSPAR – EcoQO)
9
46
Council Regulation laying down measures concerning incidental catches of
cetaceans in fisheries and amending Council Regulation (EC) No 88/98.
COM(2003) 451 final (2003/0163 (CNS)), entered into force on 1 July 2004.
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
Similar indicators used in the UK:
• Levels of cetacean by-catch in UK waters
UK Issue: Small cetaceans have been recorded as by-catch of various
fisheries, with substantial numbers of dolphins (mainly common and
Atlantic white-sided dolphins) caught in pelagic trawls in the southwest approaches to the English Channel and Celtic Sea.
UK Policy Objective: Conservation of commercial fish stocks and
reduction of fisheries impacts on non-target species including marine
mammals and birds through the integration of environment and
fisheries policies. Responsible and sustainable fisheries that ensure
healthy marine ecosystems as well as providing a livelihood for those
in the industry. Studies show that some fishing gears and methods
are more likely to catch marine mammals than others eg gillnets and
pelagic trawl fisheries. Efforts are being made to reduce the by-catch
of marine mammals and other marine animals caught in fishing gear
by changing fishing operations, such as changing the way in which
gear is shot away from the boat and the use of technology such as
‘pingers’, acoustic devices which send out a signal with the aim of
dissuading marine mammals from swimming into fishing gear.
% By-catch Strandings
Illustration of use in the UK (Figure 3.8): Cetacean strandings due
to by-catch as a percentage of strandings around England and
Wales on which post mortems were carried out.
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
YEAR
Reference: DEFRA (2000) Cetacean strandings investigation: England and
Wales and Poseidon database, 1995-2000. Final report to DEFRA from
Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regents Park,
London, UK. http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlifecountryside/resprog/findings/cetacean/execsumm.htm
THEME
POTENTIALLY
INDICATOR OF
MEASURABLE ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
√
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
√
Ecosystem structure
Ecosystem vigour
√
√
Productivity
47
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
3.1.4
Fish Community Structure
3.1.4.1 Indicator: Changes in proportion of large fish and hence the
average weight and average maximum length of the fish
community (OSPAR EcoQO – proposed)
Issue: In exploited fish assemblages, larger fish generally suffer higher
fishing mortality than smaller individuals and so the population size
distribution becomes skewed towards the smaller end of the size
spectrum. In addition, fish species that feed higher up the food chain
are being lost because of over fishing and this is changing ecosystem
composition and risking destabilisation of overall ecosystem
structure. This indicator is intended to provide a description of the
ecological quality of and the impacts of fishing on, North Sea fish
communities.
Policy Objective: To reduce the size-dependant impact of fisheries in
order to increase the proportion of large fish and hence the average
weight and average maximum length of the fish community.
Explanatory notes: The susceptibility of longer lived/later maturing and
larger fish species to fishing implies that small and early maturing
species increase in relative abundance. This can be represented by the
average weight of individual fish in the catch per year, and the
average maximum length.
Average maximum length (cm)
Illustration (Figure 3.9): Average maximum length of North Sea
fish community over time
43
42
41
40
39
38
37
1970
1975
1980
1985
1990
1995
2000
Year
Reference: Piet (2001) Ecological quality objectives of North Sea fish
community. Report to the National Institute for Coastal & Marine
Management, the Netherlands.
Similar indicators used or proposed internationally:
• Marine trophic index (CBD – ready for immediate testing)
• Trends in genetic diversity of fish species of major socio-economic
importance (UNCSD)
48
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
•
Average size (length and weight) in the community (DG FISH –
proposed)
Mean maximum length (DG FISH – proposed)
Metrics of fish community structure (EC BAP – proposed)
Mean trophic level (DG FISH – proposed)
Proportion of a set of non-assessed populations which are
decreasing in number (DG FISH)
•
•
•
•
Similar indicators used in the UK: The possibility of Government
Departmental targets linked to a ‘marine fish index’ was discussed
during the UK Government’s Review of Marine Nature Conservation
(RMNC). A paper was submitted (see Laffoley, et al., 2003) that
suggested that this index could be based on the average annual
trophic level of fish caught. This indicator would represent the
average position in the food chain of commercially caught fish.
Mean trophic level (landed)
Illustration of use in the UK (Figure 3.10): Representation of
trophic trend in landed fish for the north-east Atlantic linked to
targets agreed by the UK to halt the decline in biodiversity by
2010 and recover fish stocks where possible by 2015 (derived
from Pauly, et al., 1998).
3.6
Recover 2015
3.4
Halt decline 2010
3.2
3.0
2.8
1950
1970
1990
2010
2030
Year
Reference: Laffoley, et al. (2003) Adopting an ecosystem approach for
the improved stewardship of the maritime environment; some
overarching issues. English Nature, Peterborough. English Nature
Research Reports, No.538, 20pp.
THEME
POTENTIALLY
INDICATOR OF
MEASURABLE ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
√
√
Ecosystem structure
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
√
Productivity
√
Ecosystem vigour
√
49
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
3.2
Biodiversity indicators
3.2.1
Species & Habitats
3.2.1.1 Indicator: Trends in abundance & distribution of selected
species (UNCED/CBD – proposed)
Issue: In recent decades, pressures on the marine environment have
increased dramatically and have been recognised at the global level.
Urgent international action to stop further degradation, and where
necessary and feasible to reverse existing damage, is a priority and is
being promoted through international, European and national
agreements.
Policy Objective: One of the aims of the Convention on Biological
Diversity is “the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal
biodiversity”. The European Union’s 6th Environmental Action
Programme includes the target – halting the decline in biodiversity by
2010.
Explanatory notes: Agreement has still to be reached on how this
proposed indicator would be taken forward. Details of the species to
be covered and how it will be measured and reported on have
therefore not been agreed.
Illustration: No illustrations of status or trends are shown here, as the
indicator is only a proposal at the present time.
Similar indicators proposed internationally:
• Change in status of threatened species (UNCED/CBD)
• Trends in extent of selected biomes, ecosystems and habitats
(UNCSD)
• Coverage of protected areas (UNCSD)
• Presence and extent of threatened and declining species in the
North Sea (OSPAR – proposed EcoQO)
• Utilisation of seal breeding sites in the North Sea (OSPAR –
proposed EcoQO)
• Seal population trends in the North Sea (OSPAR EcoQO)
• Restoration/maintenance of habitat quality (OSPAR – proposed
EcoQO)
Similar indicators used in the UK:
• Biodiversity in coastal/marine areas (Defra – QoL)
• Status of coastal and marine BAP priority species and habitats
(Defra – EBS)
• Status of marine biodiversity (Defra – EBS)
• Populations of coastal and seabirds (Defra – EBS)
• % of biodiversity action plan species and habitats which are stable
or increasing (SE)
50
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
UK Issue: There have been heavy losses of biodiversity in the UK in
the 20th century. Increasing demands on natural resources and
systems, the pressures of urban and infrastructure expansion and the
intensification of agricultural production all contributed to the
declines in the extent and quality of wildlife habitats and to declines
in the population of many wildlife species. The size, abundance,
distribution and composition of marine communities have also been
affected.
UK Policy Objective: To conserve and enhance biological diversity
within the UK and to contribute to the conservation of global
biodiversity through all appropriate mechanisms. The UK vision for
the marine environment is “clean, healthy, safe, productive and biological
diverse oceans and seas”.
Illustration of use in the UK (Figure 3.11): Status of coastal and
marine priority (a) species and (b) habitats, 2002.
(b) Priority Habitat Status
(a) Priority Species Status
Declining
(continuing/
accelerating)
6%
Lost (pre BAP
publication)
15%
Stable
6%
Declining
(continuing/
accelerating)
8%
Unknown
39%
Declining
(slowing)
8%
Increasing
2%
Stable
15%
Fluctuating/No
clear trend
13%
Total number of Species: 52
Unknown
88%
Total number of Habitats: 17
Reference: Defra (2004b) Quality of Life Counts – update (using data from
English Nature and JNCC). http://www.sustainabledevelopment.gov.uk/indicators/national/index.htm
THEME
POTENTIALLY
INDICATOR OF
MEASURABLE ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
√
√
Ecosystem structure
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
Ecosystem vigour
Productivity
√
√
√
√
51
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
3.2.2
Community Structure
3.2.2.1 Indicator: Seabird population trends as an index of seabird
community health (OSPAR EcoQO – proposed)
Issue: Seabirds are some of the more prominent members of the
marine community of the North Sea, with changes in population size
considered to be reasonably good indicators of important changes in
seabird community structure and thus useful indicators of the overall
state of the ecosystem.
Policy Objective: The suggested target for this proposed EcoQO is a
limit of 20% decline over a period of 20 years or more however, this
has still to be agreed (see ICES Working Group on Seabird Ecology10).
Explanatory notes: Agreement has still to be reached on how this
proposed indicator would be taken forward. Details of the species to
be covered and how it will be measured and reported on have
therefore not been agreed.
Illustration: No illustrations of status or trends are shown here, as this
indicator is only a proposal at the present time.
Similar indicators proposed internationally:
• Density of sensitive (fragile) species (OSPAR – proposed EcoQO)
• Density of opportunistic species (OSPAR – proposed EcoQO)
• Local sandeel availability to black-legged kittiwakes (OSPAR –
proposed EcoQO)
• Marine trophic index (UNCSD)
• Connectivity/fragmentation of ecosystems (UNCSD)
Similar indicators proposed in the UK: The possibility of a UK
Government Departmental target linked to a ‘marine quality index’
was discussed during the RMNC. A paper was submitted (see
Laffoley, et al., 2003) that suggested that this could be a composite
index consisting of documenting the proportion of marine waters by
area considered to have good ecological status and documenting the
total area of seabed allocated to long-term biodiversity recovery, or
percent of designated marine sites that are unfavourable and
recovering through to favourable condition.
UK Issue: There have been heavy losses of biodiversity in the UK in
the 20th century. Increasing demands on natural resources and
systems, the pressures of urban and infrastructure expansion and the
intensification of agricultural production all contributed to the
declines in the extent and quality of wildlife habitats and to declines
in the population of many wildlife species. The size, abundance,
10
52
ICES Working Group on Seabird Ecology (WGSE)
http://www.ices.dk/iceswork/wgdetail.asp?wg=WGSE
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
distribution and composition of marine communities have also been
affected.
UK Policy Objective: To conserve and enhance biological diversity
within the UK and to contribute to the conservation of global
biodiversity through all appropriate mechanisms. The UK vision for
the marine environment is “clean, healthy, safe, productive and biological
diverse oceans and seas”.
Illustration of use in the UK: No illustrations of status or trends are
shown here, as this indicator is only a proposal at the present time.
THEME
POTENTIALLY
INDICATOR OF
MEASURABLE ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
√
√
Ecosystem structure
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
Ecosystem vigour
√
√
Productivity
53
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
3.3
Water quality & pollution indicators
3.3.1
Water Quality
3.3.1.1 Indicator: Bathing water quality
Issue: The EC Bathing Water Directive11 was designed to protect the
public from accidental and chronic pollution incidents, which could
cause illness from recreational water use. Examining compliance with
the Bathing Water Directive therefore indicates the status of bathing
water quality in terms of public health and effectiveness of the
Directive.
Policy Objective: The focus of the Bathing Water Directive is on human
health but since contamination arises from the discharge of effluents
into recreational waters and also from diffuse sources such as run off
from agricultural land, compliance is also symptomatic of water
quality more generally. It is also indicative of the effectiveness of
other environmental legislation, such as the Urban Waste Water
Treatment Directive12.
Explanatory notes: Under the Bathing Water Directive EU Member
States are required to designate coastal and inland bathing waters and
to monitor the quality of the water throughout the bathing season.
Bathing waters are designated where bathing is authorised by the
competent authority and where bathing has traditionally been
practised by a large number of bathers. The bathing season is
determined according to the period when there are the highest
numbers of bathers (May to September in most European countries).
The quality of the water has to be monitored fortnightly during the
bathing season as well as two weeks before. Annex 1 of the Directive
lists a number of parameters to be monitored but the focus has been
on bacteriological quality.
The Directive sets both minimum standards (mandatory) and
optimum standards (guide) using total and faecal coliforms. For
compliance with the Directive, 95% of the samples must comply with
the mandatory standards. To achieve guide values, 80% of samples
must comply with the total and faecal coliform standards and 90%
with the standards for the other parameters.
Council Directive of 8 December 1975 concerning the Quality of Bathing
Water (76/160/EEC)
12 Council Directive of 21 May 1991 concerning urban waste water treatment
(91/271/EEC); and Commission Directive 98/15/EC of 27 February 1998
amending Council Directive 91/271/EEC with respect to certain
requirements established in Annex 1 thereof.
11
54
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
Illustration (Figure 3.12): Percentage compliance of EU coastal
bathing waters with mandatory and guide standards (see above)
of the Bathing Water Directive, for EU Member States prior to
April 2004 (EU-15).
Mandatory (%)
Guide (%)
% Compliance
100
90
80
70
60
50
1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
YEAR
Reference: European Commission (2004) Bathing Water Quality: Annual
Report, 2003 Bathing Season Europe.
http://europa.eu.int/water/water-bathing/report.html.
Similar indicators used or proposed internationally:
None
Similar indicators used in the UK:
• Compliance with Bathing Waters Directive (Defra – QoL)
• Bathing water quality (EA)
• Estuary water quality (EA)
• Beach litter (EA)
• Sewage treatment works discharges (EA)
• Discharges to the sea (EA)
• Compliance with Bathing Waters Directive (WA – proposed)
UK Issue: A key sustainable issue for the coastal environment is to
prevent contamination of coastal waters by pollution from human
activities. Bathing water quality may be affected by discharges from
sewage treatment works and storm overflows; rivers; agricultural and
urban run-off; and diffuse sources. However, the priority is to avoid
contamination of bathing waters by human or animal sewage.
UK Policy Objective: The aim is to raise consistent compliance with the
mandatory coliform standards of the EC Bathing Water Directive, to
at least 97% by 2005 in England and Wales, and to achieve a
significant improvement in compliance with its guideline standards.
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A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
Illustration of use in the UK (Figure 3.13): Percentage of coastal
bathing waters meeting EC Bathing Water Directive mandatory
and guideline standards 1988 to 2003
Mandatory Standard
Guideline Standard
120
% Complying
100
80
60
40
20
0
1988
1990
1992
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
2004
YEAR
Reference: Defra (2004b) Quality of Life Counts – update (using data from
EA, SEPA, EHS) http://www.sustainabledevelopment.gov.uk/indicators/national/index.htm
THEME
56
POTENTIALLY MEASURABLE
INDICATOR OF
ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
Ecosystem structure
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
Ecosystem vigour
Productivity
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
3.3.2
Hazardous substances
3.3.2.1 Indicator: Hazardous substances in coastal waters
Issue: Hazardous substances can have deleterious effects on the
function and the various components of marine ecosystems and may
affect human health. Lethal and sub-lethal effects are known to occur
in both marine organisms and humans.
Cadmium, lead and mercury are found at low concentrations in the
earth’s crust and occur naturally in seawater. DDT, lindane and PCBs
are synthetic substances that are not found naturally in the
environment. Human activities have resulted in these hazardous
substances building up in aquatic and terrestrial environments and
accumulating in marine organisms and sediments even in areas
remote from point sources.
Policy Objective: The EC Discharges of Dangerous Substances
Directive13 and EC Water Framework Directive (WFD)14 have a
priority list of 33 substances15, both naturally occurring and synthetic
substances. The list includes cadmium, mercury, lead and lindane but
not DDT and PCBs. The WFD includes a requirement for Member
States to achieve good ecological and chemical status in transitional16
and coastal waters. Chemical status is defined in terms of
concentrations for a priority list of the most hazardous substances.
Cadmium, mercury, lead, lindane, DDT and PCBs are also on the list
of 15 chemicals for priority action through OSPAR. Within the
framework of HELCOM, as well as those previously mentioned, DDT
and PCBs are both on their list of priority substances and are banned
substances
Explanatory notes: Generally, annual high and low estimates of inputs
to the environment are provided to OSPAR from Contracting Parties.
Input calculations follow agreed OSPAR protocols with reliable input
data available for the period 1990-2001.
Council Directive 76/464/EEC of 4 May 1976 on pollution caused by certain
dangerous substances discharged into the aquatic environment of the
Community.
14 Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council
establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water
policy (23 October 2000).
15 Decision No 2455/2001/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of
20 November 2001 establishing the list of priority substances in the field of
water policy and amending Directive 2000/60/EC
16 Water Framework Directive definition: Bodies of surface water in the
vicinity of river mouths which are partly saline in character as a result of
their proximity to coastal waters but which are substantially influenced by
freshwater flows.
13
57
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
Illustration (Figure 3.14): Direct and riverine inputs of selected
metals and organic substances in the north-east Atlantic Ocean.
1990-1992
1993-1997
1998-2001
Inputs relative to 1990-92 (%)
100
80
60
40
20
0
Cadmium
Mercury
Lead
Lindane
PCB7
Reference: European Environment Agency (downloaded May, 2004)
(data from OSPAR)
http://themes.eea.eu.int/Specific_areas/coast_sea/indicators/hazardous
_substances/substances/index_html
Similar indicators used or proposed internationally:
• Inputs of hazardous substances in the North East Atlantic (EEA)
Similar indicators used in the UK:
• Estuarine water quality, marine inputs (Defra – QoL)
• Inputs of hazardous substances to the marine environment (Defra
– EBS)
• Inputs of hazardous substances to the marine environment (WA)
• Nuclear industry discharges (EA)
UK Issue: Contamination of marine wildlife, habitats, seafood and
seawater with chemicals, sewage or other land-based pollutants is a
cause of ecosystem damage and of disease in coastal (human)
communities in many parts of the world. The UK is working
nationally and internationally to tackle pollution from land-based
sources.
UK Policy Objective: As part of the OSPAR strategy for hazardous
substances, a work programme has been developed to identify those
hazardous substances which are of greatest concern, prepare
assessments on the main sources and pathways to the marine
environment and to develop or promote appropriate measures to
achieve the OSPAR 2020 cessation target for these substances.
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A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
Illustration of use in the UK (Figure 3.15): (A) Estuarine water
quality and (B) marine inputs of metals.
(A) Estuarine water quality - percentage of estuaries classed as good or fair:
1980 to 2000
England & Wales
N Ireland
Scotland
% of Estuarial Length
100
95
90
85
80
75
1980
1985
1990
1995
2000
YEAR
(B) Marine inputs – metals: 1990 to 2002
Cadmium
Mercury
Copper
Lead
Zinc
120
Index (1990 = 100)
100
80
60
40
20
0
1990
1992
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
YEAR
Reference: Defra (2004b) Quality of Life Counts – update (using data from
EA, SEPA, DoE(NI)) http://www.sustainabledevelopment.gov.uk/indicators/national/index.htm
THEME
POTENTIALLY
INDICATOR OF
MEASURABLE ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
√
Ecosystem structure
Ecosystem vigour
Productivity
√
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A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
3.3.2.2 Indicator: Hazardous substances in marine organisms
Issue: Hazardous substances can have effects on marine organisms
and populations resulting in negative effects on the marine ecosystem
function. Many marine organisms accumulate these substances from
the water column or seabed sediments even in areas remote from
point sources. The contaminants are not needed by the organism(s)
and are toxic. In humans, long-term exposure or consumption of
contaminated seafood can be detrimental, leading to both lethal and
sub-lethal effects.
Policy Objective: The EC Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires
Member States to achieve good ecological and chemical status in
coastal and marine waters. Chemical status is defined as standards
for a priority list of the most hazardous substances. Standards are
based on concentrations found in certain marine organisms.
Explanatory notes: Comparisons are based on an average of yearly
regional and adjusted medians for the indicated periods. It should be
noted that the lack of consistent or reliable data from the international
marine conventions or EU countries hinders adequate assessment of
concentrations of and trends for hazardous substances in European
marine waters. Aggregated data do not necessarily convey the
uncertainty caused by these problems. A minimum of 10 sampling
stations for mussels and 3 sampling stations for herring are used. The
EEA has also identified a number of sub-indicators under this
heading. They are: regional trends of hazardous substances in fish
from north east Atlantic; concentrations and trends of hazardous
substances in biota; and an overview of concentrations and trends of
cadmium, mercury, lead, DDT, lindane, and PCBs.
Similar indicators used or proposed internationally:
• Imposex in dogwhelks (OSPAR – EcoQO)
• Proportion of oiled guillemots among those found dead or dying
on beaches (OSPAR – EcoQO)
• Mercury concentrations in seabird eggs and feathers (OSPAR –
proposed)
• Organochlorine concentrations in seabird eggs (OSPAR –
proposed)
• Plastic particles in stomachs of seabirds (OSPAR – proposed)
Similar indicators used in the UK:
Although levels of hazardous substances in marine organisms are not
highlighted in either the sustainable development or biodiversity
indicator lists, monitoring does take place for certain substances eg
through the National Marine Monitoring Programme (NMMP)17, as
well as local and regional monitoring work.
17
60
http://www.cefas.co.uk/monitoring/page-b3.asp
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
Illustration (Figure 3.16): Concentrations of selected metals and
organic contaminants in mussels in (A) the north-east Atlantic
Ocean, (B) the Mediterranean Sea and (C) herring from the Baltic
Sea.
1985-1989
1990-1992
1993-1997
1998-2002
Conc's relative to 1990-92
Mussels in NE Atlantic
200
150
289
100
50
0
Cadmium
Mercury
Lead
DDT
Lindane
PCB7
Mussels in Mediterranean
Conc's relative to 1990-92
200
150
237
100
50
0
Cadmium
Mercury
Lead
Lindane
Conc's relative to 1990-92
Herring in Baltic
200
150
335
100
50
0
Cadmium
Mercury
Lead
DDT
Lindane
PCB7
Reference: European Environment Agency (downloaded May, 2004)
(using data from HELCOM, OSPAR and EU member countries)
http://themes.eea.eu.int/Specific_areas/coast_sea/indicators/hazardous
_substances/substances/index_html
THEME
POTENTIALLY
INDICATOR OF
MEASURABLE ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
√
√
Ecosystem structure
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
Productivity
√
Ecosystem vigour
√
√
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A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
3.3.3
Nutrients
3.3.3.1 Indicator: Chlorophyll-a in transitional, coastal & marine waters
Issue: Eutrophication is the undesirable effect of nutrient enrichment
of the marine environment leading to excessive growth of marine
algae, deterioration of quality and de-oxygenation of the water, so
destroying the natural balance of marine flora and fauna. In northern
Europe, it tends to occur in coastal areas of the eastern part of the
North Sea or the Wadden Sea, or in susceptible estuaries, and it is
largely the result of human activities, such as sewage or agricultural
run off. The effects of eutrophication can include increased oxygen
consumption in water and sediments and changes in species
composition which can lead to detrimental effects on benthic fauna
and the water column.
Policy Objective: To reduce adverse effects of excess anthropogenic
inputs of nutrients and to protect the marine environment against
eutrophication. (See also requirements of the EU Water Framework
Directive for good ecological quality of coastal waters).
Explanatory notes: The primary effect of eutrophication is excessive
growth of phytoplankton (planktonic algae) resulting in increased
organic matter settling to the bottom. Phytoplankton biomass is
normally measured as concentrations of chlorophyll-a in the euphotic
part of the water column. Sub-indicators are Summer surface
chlorophyll-a concentrations, chlorophyll-a from satellite images.
Illustration (Figure 3.17): Trends in average summer chlorophyll-a
concentrations in Europe’s seas.
Chlorophyll-a
Decrease (%)
No Trend (%)
Increase (%)
Baltic Sea (58)
Mediterranean Sea
(106)
North Sea (61)
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
% of Stations
Reference: EIONET (2004) Water and fisheries 2003 indicator fact sheets
review. Released: 2004/03/19 (using data from ICES and FAO Fishstat
Plus) http://eea.eionet.eu.int:8980/Public/irc/eionetcircle/water/library?l=/products_eionet/2003_factsheets
Similar indicators used or proposed internationally:
• Algal concentration in coastal waters (UNCED)
• Phytoplankton algae in transitional and coastal waters (EEA)
• Phytoplankton indicator species for eutrophication (OSPAR
EcoQO)
• Phytoplankton chlorophyll-a (OSPAR EcoQO)
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A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
•
•
Winter nutrient (DIN and DIP) concentrations (OSPAR EcoQO)
Changes/kills in zoobenthos in relation to eutrophication (OSPAR
EcoQO)
Similar indicators used in the UK:
Although indicators of nutrient enrichment are not highlighted in
either the sustainable development or biodiversity indicator lists, data
are collected as part of the indicator on estuarine water quality and
marine inputs.
UK Issue: The most obvious sign of eutrophication in coastal waters,
particularly in certain sheltered or enclosed estuaries, is the excessive
growth of green macro-algae. These can form benthic mats that
displace less competitive species and lead to the de-oxygenation of
sediments. In the water column, marine blooms of planktonic algae
can also cause nuisance through depositing foams on beaches or
discolouring the water.
UK Policy Objective: The UK is working through the EC and OSPAR to
combat eutrophication to achieve and maintain a healthy marine
environment. The target date for achieving this objective is 2010.
Illustration of use in the UK (Figure 3.18): Marine inputs of
nutrients and organic substances 1990 – 2002
160
Index (1990 = 100)
140
120
100
80
60
Orthophosphates
40
Nitrogen
Lindane
20
Riverine flow rate
0
1988
1990
1992
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
YEAR
Reference: Defra (2004b) Quality of Life Counts – update (using data from
EA, SEPA, DoE(NI)) http://www.sustainabledevelopment.gov.uk/indicators/national/index.htm
THEME
POTENTIALLY MEASURABLE
INDICATOR OF
ELEMENTS
RELEVANCE
Ecosystem
resilience
Keystone species
Habitat complexity
Ecosystem
structure
Species/habitat diversity
Species assemblages
Trophic structure
√
Ecosystem vigour
Productivity
√
√
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A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
4
A framework of marine biodiversity
indicators
An ecosystem-based approach to the management of the marine
environment, and measures for the conservation of marine
biodiversity are two elements of the UK’s approach to stewardship of
the marine environment. This is an approach that has been advocated
at an international level (eg UNCSD, CBD), as well as regionally in the
North East Atlantic through the work of OSPAR and the North Sea
Ministerial Conferences. The Intermediate Ministerial Meeting (IMM)
on the Integration of Fisheries and Environmental Issues (March 1997,
Bergen, Norway)18 was particularly important in terms of the
involvement of the UK in developing and promoting this approach.
The 1997 IMM’s Ministerial Statement of Conclusions recognised the
need to develop a management framework which looked at the
implications of particular actions on the whole (North Sea) ecosystem
rather than a series of specific components (such as a particular fish
stock) in relative isolation, as well as looking at the state of critical
marine ecosystem processes and the interactions between them. In
the case of the 1997 IMM, the aim was to improve fisheries
management, but the idea has since been taken up by many other
sectors who recognise the benefit of taking this more holistic view
when considering how to manage marine activities in a way that
benefits marine biodiversity.
The UK has set out a vision of “clean, healthy, safe, productive and
biologically diverse oceans and seas”. A headline indicator, or suite of
indicators, relevant to this vision would not only make reporting on
progress towards achieving it more transparent, and communicable
but could also be linked to the Government’s approach to setting and
achieving national/UK and international targets such as those set out
by the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The obvious starting point is the UK’s existing objectives and
indicators of sustainable development and of biodiversity
conservation and, in particular, the following two objectives which
bring together biodiversity conservation and an ecosystem approach
to management:
•
•
18
64
To conserve and enhance the overall quality of our seas, their
natural processes and their biodiversity (Defra, 2004a);
and
To further the conservation, where practicable, of marine features
which have a key role in contributing to biodiversity and
providing essential habitats to support the variety of marine life
and the benefits derived from it (Defra, 2002c).
Part of the North Sea Conferences process, between the 4NSC and the
5NSC.
A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
BOX 5: POTENTIAL OF EXISTING INDICATORS TO REPORT ON ASPECTS OF ECOSYSTEM STRUCTURE,
FUNCTION & HEALTH (TAKEN FROM SUMMARIES IN SECTION 3)
Theme
Illustrative
Indicator
Resilience
Keystone
Habitat
Species Complexity
Structure
Diversity
Species
Assemblages
Vigour
Trophic
Structure
Productivity
FISHERIES
1: State of
commercial
fish stocks
% of overfished
fish stocks of
commercial
importance
√
√
√
√
North Sea Cod
Stocks
√
√
√
√
Fish catches by
major species and
area
√
√
2:
Aquaculture
scale
Trends in
aquaculture
3: Fisheries/
aquaculture
interaction
with
biodiversity
Aquaculture
impact on genetic
structure of wild
fish populations
√
Accidental bycatch
4: Fish
community
structure
Changes in
proportion of
large fish
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
BIODIVERSITY
1:
Biodiversity
– species &
habitats
Status and trends
in species and
habitats
2:
Community
structure
Connectivity/
fragmentation of
ecosystems
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
WATER QUALITY & POLLUTION
1: Water
quality
Bathing water
quality
2: Hazardous Hazardous
substances
substances in
coastal waters
3: Water
quality –
nutrients
√
Hazardous
substances in
marine organisms
√
Chlorophyll-a in
transitional,
coastal and
marine waters
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
√
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A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
The indicators discussed in this report can be grouped under three
headings: fisheries; biodiversity; and water quality and pollution. The
checklist approach (described in Section 1.3 and summarised in Box
5), suggests that some indicators are likely to be more relevant than
others when describing biodiversity aspects of marine ecosystem
structure, function and health. A number of the indicators cover all
six aspects of ecosystem resilience, structure and vigour used in the
checklist. However, to help report on success in achieving the
objectives stated above, a combination of indicators of the quality of
the marine environment, the status of biodiversity (including marine
features) and functioning of natural processes in the marine
environment will be needed. A selected suite of indicators from the
three main groups of indicators reviewed in this report is therefore
likely to be more useful and informative than a single indicator.
FISHERIES related indicators (reviewed in Section 3.1) fall into four
sub-groups but virtually all of the indicators relating to fisheries are
exclusively concerned with commercial fish stocks. The first subgroup of indicators reports on the status of stocks, highlighting the
proportions in either favourable or unfavourable condition, and the
second sub-group describes the extent of aquaculture. The emphasis
of these indicators is on describing components of marine ecosystems
(eg abundance of cod) and potential impacts on the environment (eg
extent of aquaculture production) with particularly relevance to
reporting on keystone species, diversity and productivity.
The third and fourth sub-groups of fisheries related indicators are
concerned with interactions between fisheries and biodiversity and
the structure of fish communities. This broader view is likely to
provide more information on species assemblages and trophic
structure while also reporting on keystone species.
The existing indicators of BIODIVERSITY (reviewed in Section 3.2) fall
into two categories: those that describe the state of a particular species
or habitat (eg seal population trends in the North Sea); and those that
report on aspects of community structure (eg the density of
opportunistic species). Both categories could be used to report on
aspects of ecosystem resilience, structure and vigour.
Indicators of WATER QUALITY AND POLLUTION (reviewed in Section
3.3) fall into three sub-groups: those describing water quality in
general; inputs and effects of hazardous substances; and aspects of
nutrient enrichment. National monitoring programmes such as those
set up to report on compliance with EU Directives or national
environmental standards, already consider most, if not all of these.
From the current review, the most useful existing indicators of water
quality and pollution are likely to be those which move beyond
simply recording inputs to reporting effects on the components of
marine ecosystems, for example the accumulation of hazardous
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A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
substances in biota rather than inputs of hazardous substances into
the marine environment, or the impact of oil spills on seabirds rather
than reports of the number of oil spills. Indicators relating to the
quality of coastal waters may also be useful if, as proposed, they are
linked to the requirements of the EC Water Framework Directive, to
report on the favourable ecological and chemical condition of at least
some marine waters.
In view of the above considerations the following set or suite of
indicators, drawn from the three groups of fisheries, biodiversity and
water quality, are proposed to cover the themes of ecosystem
resilience, structure and vigour and to usefully report on progress
towards achieving the UK’s vision for the seas of which the main
elements are the quality of the marine environment, the status of
biodiversity (including marine features) and functioning of natural
processes.
Given the scope of each indicator (as illustrated by the number of
similar indicators listed under each heading in Section 3), and the
large number of variants already in use for different purposes or
required under various commitments, just one example has been
selected from each group to create a viable suite of indicators to report
on marine ecosystem resilience, structure and vigour in the UK.
BOX 6: FISHERIES INDICATOR
Theme: Fisheries – Fish community structure
(Relevant objective: Status of biodiversity)
Illustrative indicator: Changes in proportion of large fish (OSPAR –
proposed)
Similar indicators in use or proposed:
• Trends in genetic diversity of fish species of major socioeconomic importance (UNCSD)
• Mean trophic index (CBD – consideration and immediate
testing)
• Average size (length and weight) in the community (DG FISH –
proposed)
• Mean maximum length (DG FISH – proposed)
• Metrics of fish community structure (EC BAP – proposed)
• Mean trophic level (DG FISH – proposed)
• Proportion of a set of non-assessed populations which are
decreasing in number (DG FISH – proposed)
• Marine fish index (RMNC – proposal)
An indicator developed around the theme of fish community
structure (Box 6) would report on five out of the six elements relevant
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A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
to ecosystem resilience, structure and vigour, highlighted in the
checklist and would be linked to the UK’s objective of conserving and
enhancing the status of marine biodiversity.
There is the additional advantage that it provides a link to the impact
of human activities on the marine environment, in this case fishing,
and hence a further link to potential management actions that can
influence the status of the indicator.
At the present time, most of the indicators relating to this theme are
proposed rather than operational. However, the growing body of
data on the effects of fisheries on fish community structure, and on
relationships between metrics such as fish biomass, size and length, is
being used to develop a scientifically valid and useful indicator on
this theme.
An indicator developed around the theme of biodiversity –
community structure (Box 7) would report on all six elements
relevant to ecosystem resilience, structure and vigour, as highlighted
in the checklist. It is the only indicator of the three themes described
here which is likely to be useful for reporting on habitat complexity.
It should be noted however, that this theme presently is not well
developed and the majority of examples are proposed rather than
operational indicators. In contrast to the proposed fisheries
indicators, the indicators under this theme are more recent, less welldeveloped and there are limited time-series of relevant data.
BOX 7: BIODIVERSITY INDICATOR
Theme: Biodiversity – Community Structure
(Relevant objective: Status of biodiversity)
Illustrative indicator: Connectivity/fragmentation of ecosystems
(UNCSD)
Similar indicators in use or proposed:
• Density of sensitive (fragile) species (OSPAR – proposed
EcoQO)
• Density of opportunistic species (OSPAR – proposed EcoQO)
• Local sandeel availability to black-legged kittiwakes (OSPAR –
proposed EcoQO)
• Seabird population trends as an index of seabird community
health (OSPAR – proposed EcoQO)
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A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
An indicator developed around the hazardous substances theme (Box
8) would report on five out of the six elements relevant to ecosystem
resilience, structure and vigour, highlighted in the checklist. There is
the added advantage that it is linked to activities that are the subject
of management measures (eg discharge consents), which makes it
possible to influence the trend(s) highlighted by this indicator.
BOX 8: Water quality indicator
Theme: Water Quality & Pollution – Hazardous Substances
(Relevant objective: Quality of the marine environment)
Illustrative indicator: Hazardous substances in marine organisms
(EEA)
Similar indicators in use or proposed:
• Imposex in dogwhelks (OSPAR – EcoQO)
• Proportion of oiled guillemots among those found dead or
dying on beaches (OSPAR – EcoQO)
• Mercury concentrations in seabird eggs and feathers (OSPAR –
proposed)
• Organochlorine concentrations in seabird eggs (OSPAR –
proposed)
• Plastic particles in stomachs of seabirds (OSPAR – proposed)
The inputs and effects of hazardous substances on marine organisms
have been the subject of many decades of research and monitoring in
the UK. This should aid decisions about whether one of the existing
indicators (listed above) on this theme should be used, or whether
other chemicals, from a much longer list of hazardous substances
which are monitored in the marine environment, might be more
appropriate.
A suite of three indicators, developed around these themes,
would cover a spectrum of elements indicative of ecosystem
health.
It should however be noted that the checklist only considered six
potential elements of ecosystem resilience, structure and vigour and
the suggestions are drawn from existing or proposed indicators. It is
also the case that none of these indicators are particularly relevant to
reporting on the ‘natural processes’ element of the UK’s vision for the
marine environment.
From a practical, and financial, point of view, it would be useful to
consider links with existing monitoring. For example, the majority of
the monitoring and surveillance work of the UK National Marine
Monitoring Programme concentrates on aspects of water quality but
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A review of marine environmental indicators reporting on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health
work is also carried out on effects on the benthos and fish, which
could usefully be incorporated into a suite of marine indicators.
The use of indicators as a policy and decision-making tool has grown
from the early work of UNEP in the late 1980’s to the current
initiatives under the Convention on Biological Diversity. They are
now in widespread use as a tool to report on trends and the status of
particular elements of the environment and on progress towards
specific objectives for both the terrestrial and marine environment.
One of the current challenges is how to take a more ecosystem-based
approach to the management of the marine environment. An
associated need, therefore, is to move from using (individual)
indicators which give detail about particular elements of the
environment to finding those or a suite of those which can also give a
broader overview of the quality, state, and functioning of marine
ecosystems. Many organisations and Governments, including the UK,
are working on identifying indicators that could be used in this way.
To support this process, and provide some clarity on what is
happening at the present time, more than 50 existing and proposed
marine indicators have been brought together in this report and a
qualitative assessment of their potential to report on biodiversity
aspects of ecosystem health, structure and function has been carried
out. Three example indicators, one from each of three themes, have
been highlighted as being potentially useful in this role, with the most
obvious gap being indicators of ecosystem processes.
With considerable interest and effort being put into the development
of marine environmental indicators, this is clearly an evolving field. It
is also an important area of future work as marine environmental
indicators will not only be used to report on the state of the marine
environment, but also on progress towards the UK’s vision of “clean,
healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas”.
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References
Anon (1994a) Biodiversity. The UK Action Plan. HMSO, London.
Anon (1994b) Sustainable Development. The UK Strategy. HMSO,
London.
Anon (2002) Ministerial Declaration of the Fifth International
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Illustration (Figure 3.1): The ratio of the number of overfished
stocks (used here to denote stocks outside safe biological limits)
to the number of commercial stocks (for which assessment of
their status has been carried out) per fishing area in the North
East Atlantic and Baltic (2002).
Please refer to Section 3.1.1.1, page 36
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For more information, contact:
The Marine Team
Environmental Policy Department
The RSPB
UK Headquarters
The Lodge
Sandy
Bedfordshire
SG19 2DL
Tel: 01767 680551
www.rspb.org.uk
This report should be cited as:
Gubbay S (2004). A review of marine environmental indicators reporting
on biodiversity aspects of ecosystem health. The RSPB, Sandy, UK.
The RSPB is the UK charity working to secure a
healthy environment for birds and wildlife, helping to
create a better world for us all. We belong to BirdLife
International, the global partnership of bird
conservation organisations.
Photos: fisherman with catch, Lowestoft, by Ernie Janes; nesting black-legged kittiwakes and litter on beach by Andy Hay
(all rspb-images.com)
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