Monitoring marine habitats and species

Marine Environment Division (MED) survey Northern Ireland's marine and coastal habitats and species in order to comply with the requirements of national legislation and international commitments in place to safeguard marine biodiversity and the health of our ecosystems.

Why is this monitored?

The evidence gathered is used to provide information to support decisions about proposals, plans and projects. To ensure that the most important areas are effectively protected, we gather information to decide where to designate marine protected areas. Appropriate methods of management are recommended to maintain the condition and integrity of designated areas and populations of protected marine species.

How is it surveyed?

MED use many different survey and monitoring methods, depending on the habitat, species or situation being monitored. They collect and report data to determine the ecological condition of our shores and to detect any changes that are taking place, either by natural processes or those influenced by man and to record any damage.

MED work closely with the teams in Conservation Science and Conservation Designation and Protection in Natural Environment Division to designate and protect coastal designated areas.

They work in partnership with other research organisations, carrying out diving programmes and programmes such as for Seal Monitoring and Cetacean Monitoring and monitoring of seagrass and invasive species.

Intertidal surveys

MED carry out surveys in the intertidal zone around the shores of Northern Ireland. In coastal areas, nearly all of the Marine Protected Areas/Natura 2000 sites that are in terrestrial and intertidal areas are underpinned by Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) designations and the results of surveys of intertidal ASSIs feed into the evidence reported to Europe to deliver on the remit for the Natura Directives.

Sub-tidal surveys

MED also conduct diving surveys in sub-tidal areas, especially in the internationally important areas of Strangford Lough and Rathlin. They survey and carry out detailed monitoring in some areas, for example where there has been damage and restoration is taking place.

Results and reports

The evidence gathered is used to provide information to support decisions about proposals, plans and projects. To ensure that the most important areas are effectively protected, information gathered is used to decide where to designate marine protected areas. MED recommend appropriate methods of management to maintain the condition and integrity of designated areas and populations of protected marine species.

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