ICES was requested to investigate the main physical disturbance pressure(s) causing benthic impact on habitats per EU ecoregion. The three workshops in this process - WKBEDPRES1, WKBEDLOSS and WKBEDPRES2 – form part of a stepwise process that will deliver advice on seafloor integrity for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). In collaboration with its strategic partners, the high level objectives undertaken by ICES within the advice request process were: 1) to identify benthic physical disturbance pressure layers available within ICES and the European and wider marine community across the four EU (MSFD) regions – including the mapping of pertinent data flows and the establishment of criteria needed to ensure the practical use of the data in assessing benthic impact in the workshop WKBEDPRES1 (ICES HQ 24–26 October 2018); 2) to identify physical pressure layers causing loss of benthic habitats across the four EU regions, including mapping of data flow and establish guidance to ensure the practical use of the data in assessing benthic impact in the workshop WKBEDLOSS (ICES HQ 11–13 March 2019); 3) to collate physical pressure layer data causing loss or disturbance (October 2018–Aug 2019), using identified sources and targeted data calls; and 4) to evaluate and operationally test the application of compiled physical pressure layer data causing loss or disturbance (WKBEDPRES2, 30 September–2 October 2019). WKBEDPRES 2 represents the end of this process prior to submission to an ICES coordinated scientific peer-review. During this ICES review phase the EU’s TG SeaBed group will also be given the opportunity to highlight any issues requiring further clarification, and input on the operational implementation of the suggested approaches. An ICES Advice Drafting Group (ADGD6PRES) will be convened to draft advice in response to the original advice request based on the workshop reports and their review (including TG SeaBed input) to then be approved by the ICES Advisory Committee. The expected release of the ICES advice is 5 December 2019.
WKBEDPRES2 focused on objectives 3 and 4 above, developing EU-wide guidance on how to assess and report human activities that cause physical disturbance to the seafloor and loss of benthic habitats and to present relevant methodological flows and demonstration products. Within WKBEDPRES2 suitable data streams relating to activities thought to be the main causes of physical disturbance were identified, as were the links from activity to pressure and then through to impact. To produce an assessment process that allowed an accurate assessment of pressures, whilst at the same time being tractable operationally, key pressures drivers and activities were identified and have been reported herein. Definitions of what constitutes physical disturbance and loss, including further definitions required in their assessment, were also set out. The methodology laid out in WKBEDPRES2 was found to be generally applicable to each ecoregion and pressure type thought to have a main impact upon seabed integrity. The resultant demonstration product confirms the current availability of reliable methods that can implement such an assessment and the data requirements needed to serve such methods. Limitations to this assessment process, in terms of supporting models and data gaps were also identified. The implementation of such methods provides a framework that is able to assess multiple pressures arising from multiple activities and presents the possibility of further activities being included into the assessment framework in a cumulative and biologically relevant manner: appropriate to assessment of adverse effects under D6C3 and D6C5, both for the single pressure and the cumulative of all pressures.
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