Mapping priority marine habitats : knowledge of their ecosystem to underpin the marine planning process
Gormley, Kate Sarah Geddes
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Marine planners need to know about ecosystems, such as Priority Marine Habitats (PMHs) in order to manage and conserve them effectively. The overarching theme of this thesis is to contribute to this knowledge through the development of “marine planning tools”. The primary focus is on the PMH, Modiolus modiolus beds, although other PMHs and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were also considered. Four key studies were designed and conducted, i) Species Distribution Modelling (SDM) of M. modiolus in UK waters; ii) SDM of PMHs in Europe; iii) assessment of MPA management effort; and iv) the genetic connectivity of M. modiolus beds Overall, the research provided information and knowledge to contribute to implementation of a truly ecosystem-based approach to management and effective PMH management. It is now known: i) where Modiolus modiolus beds occur; ii) where they have the potential to occur, now and in the future; iii) that there is the potential for them to be lost/ hindered or lack-viability if ocean temperatures increase; iv) that they may become more important to conservation at northern latitudes in the future; v) that European nations will have to work towards integrated marine conservation policies and protection when considering all PMHs; vi) that some MPAs may require more effort to manage than others and that it may be possible to predict which ones they will be; vii) that cumulative human impacts may not be the driving force for management effort; and viii) that some M. modiolus beds in the UK are potentially connected. The data and discussion points generated within this thesis will enable effective PMH management through the selection of appropriate management strategies.