Biodiversity Monitoring & Assessment

To achieve the OSPAR vision for a healthy and biodiverse sea, we need to know how our seas function and whether the actions that the OSPAR Contracting Parties agree to take are having the intended effect. Assessing marine biodiversity is a complex task given the large number of possible parameters to consider and the vast areas to be covered.

The OSPAR common indicators assess the changes in populations of marine mammals, seabirds, fish, they look at changes in the phyto- and zoo-plankton communities, benthic habitats and food webs.

Common indicators assess change over time for the included parameters against a threshold value or assessment value. The indicators have been developed to provide regionally comparable assessment outputs across the OSPAR maritime area and to be responsive to pressures from human activities. Meeting all these requirements is a significant technical challenge and these aspects are still being further developed.

Common indicators build on parameters which are measured in environmental monitoring programmes, whenever possible, to ensure long-term availability of data to support assessments. The OSPAR Coordinated Environmental Monitoring Programme (CEMP) describes monitoring activities in the region. The appendices to the CEMP Agreement provide an overview of the parameters included in the monitoring programmes of each Contracting Party. Further details on the monitoring approaches and the assessment methods applied to the monitoring data in calculating the common indicator assessments are provided in the CEMP Guidelines. The biodiversity CEMP appendices and CEMP guidelines have not yet reached a stage of completion and are being continuously improved.

The process of identifying regional biodiversity indicators was described in an advice manual published in 2012. Developing and maintaining a suite of operational common indicators is a relatively young area of work for OSPAR. The procedures continue to be adapted and improved, the documentation of the indicators is strengthened and data arrangements continue to be developed towards operationalisation.