Another fine MESH!


Seabed mapping project supports Natura 2000 programmeMapping European Seabed Habitats (MESH) logo

Mapping European Seabed Habitats (MESH) Interreg logoWith the Mapping European Seabed Habitats (MESH) project nearing completion in April 2007, project partners decided to build on the results by applying to sponsors - the EU INTERREG IIIB North West Programme - to progress some of the project’s outputs. In particular, continuation of the transnational partnership, promotion of the results and building on the improved ability to map seabed habitats by taking on a new survey challenge in deep water. Following a formal evaluation by the Programme Steering Committee, the proposal was accepted and the MESH Project will now finish in early 2008.
A large part of the MESH extension will comprise a deep-water survey at the edge of the continental shelf in the south west of the MESH project area, where JNCC’s offshore Natura 2000 programme has identified an area of potential cold-water coral reef habitat; as part of JNCC’s work in 2006, extensive areas of cold water coral reef habitat was observed off north-west Scotland.
Bathymetry and physiography of the canyons area © Ifremer 2006The SW area has considerable topographic interest, encompassing the only steep-sided submarine canyons identified in UK waters, some extending to over 4000m depth. As the survey area crosses French, Irish and UK waters, it will provide an excellent opportunity to continue the collaborative work undertaken by the MESH project; JNCC will be working closely with the Marine Institute (Ireland), Ifremer (France), University of Gent (Belgium) and our UK colleagues British Geological Survey and Cefas.
This survey will test the MESH survey standards and protocols to determine their suitability for the offshore environment. The location of the canyons 200 nautical miles offshore and their steep slopes dropping to depths of several kilometres below sea level will present technical challenges for the survey team. One of the key outputs from the MESH Project is a guidance framework for seabed habitat mapping covering all stages of a project from planning through survey, analysis, map production and finally the practical application of maps for environmental management. Consequently, the MESH partners propose to run this canyons project as a demonstration ‘proof of concept’ for the MESH guidance, since there is a clear practical end-point for the data in terms of potentially identifying a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for the Natura 2000 network. All the knowledge gained about deep-water habitats encountered in our offshore Natura work will also be used by MESH to propose an update to the European Nature Information System (EUNIS) habitat scheme to cover the offshore environment.
In addition to the deep-water survey, JNCC will continue to work with our MESH partners to enhance the MESH webGIS and MESH metadata catalogue, develop a responsive habitat and species distribution model as a decision support tool for coastal zone management, and promote the use of the key MESH products to the wider user community. We estimate the work on these four sub-tasks will take approximately 9-12 months to complete, including time for planning, undertaking the work and presenting the results.
Contact file:
Jon Davies
MESH Project Coordinator
Tel: +44 (0)1733 866835