Reconciling policy with ecological requirements in biodiversity monitoring

Author(s): Cook, A.S.C.P., Parsons, M., Mitchell I. & Robinson R.A.

Published: January 2011  

Journal: Marine Ecology Progress Series Volume: 434

Digital Identifier No. (DOI): 10.3354/meps09244

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Research by the BTO and the JNCC shows that the regions used by policy makers in monitoring and protecting the UK’s internationally important seabird populations are not necessarily meaningful on an ecological level. Consequently, the effects of man’s marine activities, such as fishing, dredging and shipping, on seabirds could be overlooked.

The research used data collected at seabird colonies in the UK and Ireland since 1986 to identify monitoring regions that better reflect the areas of coast and sea used by 11 species. The number of areas determined varied between species, from two for Northern Gannet, a highly mobile species, to seven for the more sedentary Great Cormorant.

Current regions used for monitoring are mostly based on features such as seabed habitat and tidal fronts. This research suggests that knowledge of seabird ecology is crucial for better understanding population changes in these charismatic species. As top predators, seabirds are key indicators of the health of marine ecosystems. A similar approach placing ecology at the heart of monitoring could perhaps benefit other marine predators, for example dolphins and seals.

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