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Maritime Forum

Preparatory Action for development and assessment of a European Seamap. Draft final report

A consortium of partners from across four Marine Regions (Baltic, North, Celtic and western Mediterranean Seas) has joined together to deliver the requirements for EC Tender MARE/2008/07. The EUSeaMap Partnership comprises government agencies and research institutions with proven national and international expertise in marine seabed mapping and modelling. The project will build upon the highly successful INTERREG MESH1 and BALANCE2 projects, by harmonising the MESH EUNIS seabed habitat maps for the North Sea and Celtic Seas with the seabed maps of the Baltic BALANCE project and extending the methodology to the western Mediterranean basin. Through expert application of the EUNIS classification and improved input data layers and seabed habitat modelling techniques, existing maps will be improved and refined, and their coverage seamlessly extended in the specified Marine Regions.

This Draft Final Report of EUSeaMap summarises the work of the project to date. Through a review of seabed habitat modelling and mapping in European waters, a consistent methodology has been developed across the partnership, which takes account of the diverse range of seabed habitats found in different Regions. Spatial data have been prepared for a suite of environmental variables, which form the basis of the model. This includes data provided by EMODNET geology and hydrography projects3. Biological data have been incorporated into the modelling process, through the development of ecologically-relevant thresholds. Models were run in three areas (Baltic, Western Mediterranean, North and Celtic Seas) to produce seabed habitat maps covering nearly 2 million square kilometres. All the models are structured to allow ready update of the maps, as new higher quality data become available in the future.

Three techniques have been developed for creating confidence maps associated with the seabed habitat maps. Confidence maps are important to enable the variation in quality and resolution of the input data layers to be visually reflected. The EUSeaMap pilot webGIS has been built, through which the final seabed habitat maps, environmental variables and confidence maps will be disseminated; additional functionality is in development ahead of the project completion in December.

In this final phase of the project a series of assessments to demonstrate the applications of the maps will be carried out to highlight benefits and weaknesses of such maps, including through stakeholder feedback. An assessment of further work required to refine the maps and to extend them to other parts of European seas will be undertaken.