Marine Landscapes

The concept of a marine landscapes classification of the sea and seabed was developed with the aim of enabling action to be taken to benefit nature conservation in circumstances where marine biological data are limited. The classification is based on the assumption that geophysical and hydrographical information (for which there is generally better broad-scale coverage than biological information) can be used in lieu of biological information to classify medium scale marine habitats and to set marine nature conservation priorities.
Three main groups of marine landscapes were identified for the Irish Sea. These are:
  1. Coastal (physiographic) marine landscapes such as rias and estuaries where the seabed and water body are closely interlinked. In this group, both the seabed and the overlying water are included within the marine landscape;
  2. Seabed marine landscapes which occur away from the coast, i.e. the seabed of open sea areas. In this group, the marine landscapes comprise the seabed and water at the substrate/water interface;
  3. Water column marine landscapes of open sea areas, such as mixed and stratified water bodies and frontal systems. In this group, the marine landscapes comprise the water column above the substrate/water interface.


Marine Landscape © Crown copyrightIn total, 18 coastal and seabed marine landscape types were identified for the Irish Sea. These are listed in table 3.1 of the report linked below, which also summarises the distinguishing geophysical and hydrographical characteristics of each type. The distribution of these 18 types is shown in the map
The Pilot project has demonstrated that the identification and mapping of a comprehensive series of marine landscape types using geophysical and hydrographical data is fully practicable at the Regional Sea scale. The classification provides a description of the sea which is broadly equivalent to the countryside map scale on land. It gives an overview of the main physiographic and ecosystem types in the marine environment. This is likely to be invaluable for strategic planning, spatial planning policy development and management decision making for the sea.
In summary the Pilot project recommends that the marine landscape approach should be adopted as a key element for marine nature conservation and utilised in the spatial planning and the management of the marine environment. A list of internationally-agreed marine landscapes for the North-East Atlantic should be developed as far as possible, in collaboration with other relevant countries.
See Pilot project main report ( Vincent et al, 2004)and marine landscapes report for ( Golding et al, 2004) details of the rational, methodology, biological characterisation of each landscape type and references.