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Biological diversity and ecosystems

The OSPAR Commission's Biological Diversity and Ecosystems Strategy has a very broad focus, since it is concerned with all human activities (excluding those which may cause pollution), which can have an adverse effect on the protection and conservation of the ecosystems and the biological diversity of the North-East Atlantic (human activities with the potential to cause pollution are addressed by the other strategies). In addition to protecting and conserving ecosystems the OSPAR Convention makes provision to restore, where practicable, marine areas that have been adversely affected. The biological diversity and ecosystems related work is implemented by OSPAR’s Biodiversity Committees (BDC).

The Strategy has four elements:

  • Species and habitats: assessments are made of species and habitats that are threatened or in decline and programmes and measures are developed for their protection;
  • Marine protected areas: an ecologically coherent network of well-managed marine protected areas is being created. This includes ground-breaking work on Marine Protected Areas in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction;
  • Human activities: the human activities in the OSPAR maritime area which may adversely affect it are being assessed and programmes and measures to safeguard against such harm are being developed;
  • Biodiversity monitoring and assessment: the development of monitoring and assessment of pressures from human activities and the state of biodiversity in support of the ecosystem approach to the management of human activities. This work has a particular focus on the requirements of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive and builds upon OSPAR's pilot development and application of ecological quality objectives in the North Sea.

Programmes and measures relating to questions of fisheries management and shipping cannot be adopted by the OSPAR Commission. Issues concerned with the impact of these sectors on biodiversity are drawn to the attention of the competent authorities and relevant international bodies for such questions.

OSPAR Commission work on the biological diversity of the sea complements that undertaken by other international forums such as the Convention for Biological Diversity and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). A number of Observer organisations to the OSPAR Commission campaign for biodiversity conservation and contribute significantly to work within this Strategy.

The OSPAR Commission has also developed work programme elements based on an invitation from the Fifth North Sea Conference to consider the need for international co-operation on marine spatial planning and management.  These work products link closely to the rationale of the European Commission's Maritime Policy.