Supplementary submission from the Natural
Environment Research Council (NERC)
Comments from the Natural Environment Research
Council (NERC) regarding the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment
NERC regards the UKMMAS as a worthwhile initiative,
which has made a good start in bringing together the organisations
in the marine community to co-ordinate UK marine-monitoring work.
This will be important for the gathering of data for national
and international marine assessments, and should facilitate knowledge
transfer. However, the focus is currently on compliance monitoring,
and there is a need for more consideration of how better to include
generic marine research and meet longer-term and global-scale
monitoring requirements. Almost inevitably, more resources are
required than have so far been committed.
Many NERC research and collaborative centres
were represented at a recent workshop to discuss UKMMAS, and the
participants were generally positive about the value of the discussions.
The following summarises points made about UKMMAS progress to
The remit of the UKMMAS is seen by most of the
NERC participants as covering compliance monitoring (ie monitoring
driven by legislation, eg the Water Framework Directive) and long-term
science-driven monitoring (designated "Sustained Observations"
in the Oceans 2025 programme) which can include contextual monitoring,
ie obtaining wide-scale information, for example from indicator
species, to reveal the status of marine ecosystems.
This view is consistent with the UKMMAS definition
of monitoring as "the taking, on a reasonably regular basis,
of any form of observations relative to the status of the marine
environment, regardless of the frequency of, or purpose for which,
the observations are made". However, there seems to be an
alternative perception that the UKMMAS was set up primarily to
establish a coordinated approach across the agencies with responsibility
for reporting on legislative drivers. Indeed, the composition
of the working groups, and the activities of the UKMMAS, are currently
slanted towards compliance, in particular towards compliance with
current (rather than proposed) legislation. This suggests that
there may be some ambiguity.
What should be clear is that there is value
in ensuring that compliance monitoring and science-driven monitoringand
researchare well linked, and that the agencies could make
more use of the range of monitoring carried out by academia and
other institutions. Compliance monitoring, if done well, can inform
and be part of science-driven long-term observations, and the
latter can similarly inform and provide context for compliance
monitoring. Ideally, good compliance monitoring should be nested
within sustained science-driven monitoring and both should feed
into and be informed by process-driven research. Context is important
so that change can be interpreted and the causes, eg whether anthropogenic
or natural, distinguished between.
UKMMAS needs to recognise the value of existing
datasets, in particular the importance of investing resources
in making them more easily accessible and analysing them. [This
is obviously one aim of the Marine Data Information Partnership
(MDIP).] The burden cannot fall only on those who generate the
Another concern is the need to consider wider
oceanic influences, ie to monitor in non-UK waters, including
the North Atlantic, because of their potentially overriding influence,
eg on nutrient levels in UK coastal waters. Monitoring should
also tie in as far as possible with other European schemes.
NERC is ready to work with Defra to improve
the UKMMAS delivery plan, which needs to take the above points
into account. It is recognised that UKMMAS needs a near doubling
of resources to carry out even relatively basic marine monitoring
and data management to meet current legislative requirements,
and more to have a big impact on the accessibility and usability
of data, to be able to monitor in new strategic locations (including
open oceans) and to monitor climate-change indicators.
There may be a need for more questioning about
the monitoring programmes being supported, and their ability to
deliver the necessary answers; data collection must be tailored
to the issues being addressed, and spatial and temporal integration
would facilitate the linking of pattern with process.
From a geological perspective, marine monitoring
is mainly of value in assessing mobile sediments, coastal change
and geohazards. The British Geological Survey has been promoting
the idea of a UK National Seabed Mapping Programme; a proposal
was submitted to Defra in 2006 to carry out systematic high-resolution
surveys. The programme would provide a framework for informing
marine management decisions, and context within which to implement
UKMMAS. (It would improve on 1980s maps currently used for marine
spatial planning.) A proposal being developed by a UKMMAS working
group is looking at how seabed survey activities and the data
acquired can be better co-ordinated and collated, but in the long
term, high-resolution mapping is needed to support both marine
management and marine research in general.