Geospatial surveying and mapping of species and habitats has resulted in the formal designation of the three Marine Conservation Zones in English waters.

The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 allowed for the creation of Marine Conservation Zones, areas that protect a range of nationally important, rare or threatened habitats and species. Government policy stated that Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) should be based on “best available evidence”, one of the seven network design principles in the Ecological Network Guidance (http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-2409). But new data collection, mapping and analyses were needed to underpin the designation of MCZs. Of prime importance was the need to collate and improve data layers on biological and physical aspects of the marine environment, including the provision of data on current habitat maps; the distribution of species and habitats of conservation importance; mapping of marine biodiversity and the production of sensitivity matrices (http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-4525).

Dr Nova Mieszkowska of the MBA and Dr Sugden (University of Newcastle) led data collection to provide evidence on the distribution UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and OSPAR priority habitats, in addition to the distribution of 15 key non-native species and maps showing the marine biodiversity for rocky intertidal habitats within proposed Marine Conservation Zones around the coastline of England. These field-based studies involved the geospatial surveying and mapping of component species, biotope and habitats, using The Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland classification system that aids the management and conservation of marine habitats. Their research, in combination with data collection from additional component habitats has resulted in the formal designation of the Marine Conservation Zones ‘Coquet to St Mary’s’, Newquay and The Gannel’ and ‘Skerries Bank and Surrounds’. There are now 50 MCZs currently designated in the waters around England.

Marine Conservation Zones in UK Regional Seas, reproduced from

http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-2409

Funding provided by JNCC and Natural England

Links: 

Mieszkowska lab website www.mba.ac.uk/fellows/nova