Marine Conservation Objectives

Client: National Parks and Wildlife Service

Ireland has proposed sites for designation as Special Areas of Conservation for a number of marine habitats and species under the 1992 EU Habitats Directive. These sites require the development of site-specific conservation objectives to allow for the conservation of natural habitats and species and the protection of biological diversity in Ireland.

Saltee Islands, photo by Roisin Nash

The National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Marine Institute co-ordinated a national data collection programme around Ireland’s coasts. These data were carefully reviewed and analysed by a marine specialist from BEC Consultants with a view to establishing the backing documents for the conservation objectives for both individual sites and nationally. Statistical analyses of the marine macrobenthic data, using PRIMER v6 software, and knowledge of animal-sediment relations allowed detailed marine community descriptions to be identified, which incorporated both the physical and biological data. These communities were then mapped using ArcGIS according to the habitats recorded and spatial interpolation was used to provide complete coverage of the inshore benthic habitats being analysed. In certain cases where the data remained dubious after intertidal analysis then site visits were undertaken for the purposes of clarification or validation.

The information gleaned from this project provided the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DAHG) with valuable baseline data, which will permit the detection of improvements or deterioration in the conservation status of a site. This information in turn will allow the DAHG to provide sound advice to licensing authorities.