APEM Evaluates Sensitivity of Marine Wildlife

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Natural England has commissioned APEM to help assess the sensitivity of marine birds, fish and mammals to a range of pressures commonly resulting from human activity in the marine environment.

These include habitat loss, introduction of non-native species, barrier effects, pollution and water quality changes, introduction of light and noise, fishing and hunting.

APEM will provide expert evaluations on 105 highly protected birds, marine mammals, fish and even a coastal crustacean species (the spiny lobster).

The work is providing insight and a common approach to the evaluation of the possible effects of marine activities, enabling Natural England to improve conservation advice on marine developments and marine protected areas by linking marine activities – and the pressures they cause – to feature-specific sensitivity assessments.

The project began in January and is progressing into the summer. Technical input is being provided by JNCC (the Joint Nature Conservation Committee).

To date, most previous pressure-sensitivity assessments and associated methodologies have focussed on habitat features. This new project is designed to deliver a methodology for assessing highly mobile marine species to a pre-defined list of pressures and benchmark intensities.

APEM researchers have been working on the many challenges embedded in this major review with the aim of providing advice that is up-to-date, easily accessible and sufficiently robust to allow applicants and nature conservation bodies to assess and manage the impacts of marine developments and activities on iconic marine fauna.

Natural England and APEM aim to share the outputs of this work as widely as possible and a project report is expected to be available on the Natural England website by autumn 2014.

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