Marine biodiversity - indicators and targets


JNCC staff joined marine policy and technical experts from nine countries at a workshop in November to discuss marine biodiversity indicators and targets. Organised by OSPAR - the mechanism by which Governments from western Europe cooperate to protect the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic - the workshop made an in-depth comparison of indicators and targets being proposed by OSPAR Contracting Parties through their delivery of the EC Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).


Over the past two years, JNCC has played an active role in advising UK government on the implementation of the MSFD – the overall objective of which is to achieve ‘Good Environmental Status’ (GES) by 2020 across Europe’s marine environment. GES is defined by 11 qualitative descriptors (listed in Annex 1 of the Directive). JNCC’s advice has been focused on three biodiversity-related Descriptors: D1 – Biological Diversity, D4 – Food-webs and D6 – Ocean-floor Integrity.


Defining and achieving GES under such broad descriptors presents a major challenge to the UK and other EU Member States. The Directive requires Member States to cooperate with each other in assessing whether or not GES has been achieved at a European regional scale (i.e. NE Atlantic) and at a sub-regional scale (e.g. Greater North Sea).  Considerable developmental work has already been undertaken by the UK and other states, but much more is required to establish the necessary guidance and practices.  The first major milestone of the MSFD occurs in July 2012, when Member States must submit a set of environmental targets and related indicators to the Commission. 


JNCC has played a key role in the development of the targets and indicators to be submitted by the UK Government, working closely with partners through HBDSEG1 to gather input from UK experts on marine biodiversity in UK waters. These proposals were compared with those from other Member States at the recent workshop.  


Commonalities amongst the indicators proposed by different Member States were highlighted at the workshop. JNCC will continue to work with European colleagues, through OSPAR's ICG-COBAM2, to further develop this common approach with the next challenge to make these indicators and targets operational by 2014.

1Healthy  & Biologically Diverse Seas Evidence Group (HBDSEG) delivers expert advice to inform the Government's UK Marine Monitoring & Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS).

2Inter-sessional Correspondence Group on Co-ordination of Biodiversity Assessment and Monitoring (ICG-COBAM).


Footnote: Defra will put out to public consultation during March-May 2012, a list of GES targets and indicators for all 11 Descriptors.


Contact File


Ian Mitchell

MSFD Species Adviser

Tel: +44 (0) 1224 266573


| JNCC - Adviser to Government on Nature Conservation | Site Map | Search | Legal | Feedback | List Access Keys |