Scottish Marine Protected Areas (MPA): monitoring strategy

The Scottish Marine Protected Area (MPA) monitoring strategy outlines an approach to MPA-related survey and monitoring to ensure that sufficient information is collected to underpin assessment and reporting obligations.

8. Where will the monitoring be undertaken?

A risk-based approach will be used to provide a logical framework for planning and prioritising monitoring activities. This will ensure that an appropriate selection of features, across their broad geographic range, is included to inform key assessment and reporting requirements. Habitats and species considered most at risk from identified pressures, or most likely to show positive effects of management measures will be prioritised.

It is important to note that routine monitoring will not be planned in every MPA. Long-term monitoring will encompass specified features / sites only. Monitoring may be triggered in any site (e.g. on the basis of activities and / or management compliance monitoring).

Whilst monitoring effort may be targeted at a subset of features only, additional contextual information on pressures will inform assessment and reporting. The selection of features does not confer any additional nature conservation value over other features.

The Strategy recognises the need to balance monitoring work with ongoing wider survey work, as well as undertaking aspects of more detailed scientific research where appropriate.

8.1 Prioritisation of MPA monitoring effort

The following principles will be applied to prioritise monitoring effort. First the target features are identified, then where they should be monitored. The prioritisation process should also determine what type of monitoring is required (from the 4 types outlined in Box 1)., Once this has been done, additional features may be added to the site-specific monitoring programmes where this helps to deliver assessment and reporting in a cost-effective way (e.g., multiple features being monitored in the same locations).

8.1.1 General principles

Flexibility to modify the programme - there should be provision to modify the MPA-related monitoring programme to include any new protected areas, sites where pressure levels have changed significantly, or where there is any new evidence or concern.

8.1.2 Feature prioritisation - Principles for prioritising / ranking different features for MPA-related monitoring

a) Species / habitats at high risk of negative impact - at a feature level these include those with known decline or threat of decline in Scottish waters on the basis of existing pressures [this principle is also relevant at the site level - see Section 8.1.3 below].

b) A feature for which Scotland has a special responsibility - applies to some habitats and species where Scottish waters encompass a high proportion of the UK or European resource. Relevant MPA features include grey and harbour seals, common skate, saline lagoons, serpulid reefs, maerl beds, horse mussel beds, flame shell beds and burrowed mud.

c) Ecosystem services - functional importance - biological / ecological value - allows for monitoring of features that have a demonstrable functional role e.g. climate change amelioration (‘blue carbon’); habitats supporting commercial fisheries; habitats important for nutrient cycling; sediment stabilisation etc. The scale of any services will also be considered. Primarily but not solely applicable to seabed habitat features.

8.1.3 Location prioritisation - Design principles for selecting areas where features should be monitored

d) Species / habitats at high risk of negative impact - at a site level, the decline or threat of decline may be reflected in feature Conservation Objectives set at the time of designation or current feature condition - this status may also be indicative of concerns at a broader feature level [see also Section 8.1.2 above]. Any existing management measures will also inform the site level risk assessment.

e) Site management characteristics - this includes prioritising monitoring effort towards locations where protected features are expected to respond most markedly to management measures (e.g. to facilitate more detailed Type 3 BACI-style monitoring studies). The suitability and availability of information on anthropogenic activities will also be considered.

f) Capturing the geographic range and ecological variation of features - where appropriate this may also include monitoring examples of MPA features outside the MPA network or at the edge of their range.

g) Linkages - the proximity of other examples of features may have a bearing on where monitoring takes places. For some features with a restricted distribution (e.g. flame shell beds within sea lochs) it may be appropriate to monitor ‘adjacent’ examples of features at the open coast if these are believed to serve as ‘sources’ of larvae. Such monitoring would provide context for any observed changes in MPA feature condition.

h) Qualities of existing data - the qualities of existing site-level data are likely to influence the selection of monitoring locations. Locations subject to previous or ongoing sampling / academic research may provide valuable insights into baseline conditions.

i) Level of local community / stakeholder interest in management or monitoring - prioritisation of locations that present opportunities for collaboration. For nearshore waters this principle is linked to community empowerment.

j) Logistics - ease of access / costs - these factors influence the affordability of future monitoring.

A number of the principles listed above will also have a bearing on the detailed design of any MPA-related monitoring e.g. an increased risk of decline is likely to require a higher frequency of sampling.



Back to top