Ospar Commission
OSPAR's Quality Status Report 2023 Friday Ocean Findings Issue 38
In this week's newsletter we feature 4 of our benthic habitats Indicator Assessments. Benthic habitats are essential for marine life because many marine species rely directly or indirectly on the seafloor to feed, hide, rest or reproduce. Benthic habitats are characterised by animal and plant communities with no or slow mobility compared to fish or marine mammals. The whole benthic community is therefore exposed when a pressure occurs.

These assessments contribute to our 2023 Quality Status Report which, when viewed together, build a picture of the overall condition of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic and progress towards achieving our vision of a clean, healthy and biologically diverse North-East Atlantic Ocean, which is productive, used sustainably and resilient to climate change and ocean acidification. The results will also be used by OSPAR Contracting Parties to inform policy decisions.

We hope you enjoy these Indicator Assessments. Please contact us with any comments at [email protected]
Sentinels of the Seabed

Status of benthic habitats in relation to trawling was assessed in the Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast region. Offshore circalittoral mud were the most affected habitats (80% highly or moderate disturbed) and upper bathyal sediment the least (46% highly or moderate disturbed). The South Iberian Atlantic assessment is not reliable because of a lack of Portuguese data.

Condition of Benthic Habitat Communities: Assessment of some Coastal Habitats in Relation to Nutrient and/or Organic Enrichment

Coastal water bodies were assessed for only 72% (invertebrates), and 59% (vegetation) of the total area of three OSPAR Regions. From those, the Water Framework Directive quality status was good or high for 79% (invertebrates) and for 86% (vegetation). However, local eutrophic impacted areas were highlighted for 2010 and 2016 reporting cycles.

Condition of Benthic Habitat Communities: Margalef diversity in Region II (Greater North Sea)

There was low species diversity in infralittoral sand, - mud and circalittoral sandy habitats in the Greater North Sea. It was moderate/high in offshore areas till 2015, but expected impacts of fisheries might lead to (near) future decreases. Other pressures (e.g., eutrophication, diffuse pollution), are likely to prevent recovery of impacted habitats.

Extent of Physical Disturbance to Benthic Habitats: Fisheries with mobile bottom-contacting gears

A risk assessment showed seafloor disturbance caused by fishing occurred in all broad habitat types, 48% of the assessed area in 2016 to 2020, and 53% during 2009 to 2020. ‘High’ disturbance was greatest in Offshore circalittoral mud, alongside Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities, whilst disturbance was predominantly ‘Low’ on Offshore circalittoral coarse sediment.

OSPAR Commission
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