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01/01/2010 - 31/12/2013

Mapping Atlantic Area seabed habitats for better marine management.

The general objective of Mesh-Atlantic is to provide harmonised seabed habitat mapping over the coastal and shelf zones of the Atlantic Area in order to help informed spatial planning and management.

List of Partners

  • Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer
  • Universidade do Algarve
  • Instituto das Pescas da Investigação e do Mar
  • Universidade de Aveiro
  • Universidade dos Açores
  • Instituto Español de OceanografiaFundacion AZTI
  • Institut des Milieux Aquatiques
  • Marine Institute (Foras na Mara)
  • DIREN Bretagne
  •  Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e Biodiversidade, I.P.

Work packages

  1. Project coordination
  2. Map collation: This is the core task of Mesh-Atlantic. Its objective is to compile existing maps and associated geophysical data in the Atlantic Area in a homogeneous way by translating full habitat maps to the standard habitat classification system Eunis and also making source data layers compatible between countries. These source data layers are those fed to the Eunis model (in Activity 4) to produce a broad-scale map of the AA marine area. This work package yields tangible maps to be uploaded onto the webGIS described in Activity 5.
  3. New surveys: The objective of this package is twofold: a) to test in a collaborative way the acquisition of new mapping data by applying formerly established survey scoping and operating guidelines (especially the Mesh mapping guide), with a view to improving procedures and completing the Eunis description of southern Atlantic habitat types, b) to survey a few sites subject to MPA (Marine Protected Area) designation, in line with the MAIA project.
  4. Making new maps: This is the second core task of Mesh-Atlantic. It will yield tangible mapping products of two sorts: a) several detailed maps at local level on MPA sites that can be used by the MAIA project (and others) and more generally for management at local/regional level by a number of stakeholders, b) a broad-scale map for the Atlantic Area seabed aimed at national/European policy-making.
  5. Communication and dissemination: The communication and dissemination activity builds on actions aiming to reach the stakeholders, the general public and the project partners. At the stakeholders level, the goal is to enable dialogue between scientists, managers, politicians, fishermen, NGO?s and others involved in the elaboration and use of seabed habitat mapping and aiming at the sustainable use of marine resources. For the general public, the goal is to raise public awareness and participation, through the design of a project website with multi-lingual sections and associated with social networking, and the set-up of activities to be implemented namely in science centers attracting students and educators from a range of scholar levels. Within the working group, the main goal is to promote capacity building and cross-disciplinary interaction between partners, through technical training workshops which will bring together young and experienced researchers


Activity nº 2

  • Action Nº 1: Collate of historic habitat maps in standard format and metadata capture. This task mostly concerns primarily Spain and Portugal, where no such endeavour has yet taken place and where a number of historical habitat maps need to be collated, but alos Ireland and France. These maps will be digitised and quality checked (in particular with thorough metadata capture) and translated to Eunis in order to provide homogeneous coverage between countries. Ifremer will help partners to do so, according to best practice developed earlier. Deliverable: maps with original classification with a metadata catalogue.
  • Action Nº 2: Harmonisation of bathymetry files across countries. There is a need to stitch historical bathymetry files that are going to provide essential data for broad-scale map modelling. Generally, these files will already be available as a digital terrain model (DTM). Deliverable: a set of regional files in the same format and map coordinates.
  • Action Nº 3: Harmonisation of seabed substrate data across countries. Likewise, substrate maps need to be made homogeneous within partners? countries and stitched across borders. Since these polygon maps come from various sources and authors, this means agreeing from the start on a common simple substrate classification for the modelling application. This task will liaise with the EuSeaMap study, a preparatory action of the DG/MARE Emodnet initiative. Deliverable: a unified substrate map.
  • Action Nº 4: Harmonisation of physical seabed data across countries. Oceanographic data used in global modeling are basically data on light, temperature, currents and waves. Sources for these low resolution data are either models or satellite data with wide coverage. All of them are generated straight away in raster (image) mode.
  • Action Nº 5: Harmonisation of biological data across countries. The principal objective of this task is to find pragmatic ways of rendering biological datasets which have been collected independently, with different purposes, both compatible and comparable. So, there will be a need to organise the data according to their time scale, sampler/sample area, number of replicates, mesh sieve and taxonomic discrimination and to check and compare the taxonomic levels used and taxonomic category ensuring that the most recent modifications are taken into account. Furthermore, because the methods used to obtain biological information on the marine environment could include underwater video and photography, special attention must be given to this kind of dataset to find ways of integrating the information.
  • Action Nº 6: Confidence assessment for existing habitat maps. The method developed in Mesh will be applied to Atlantic Area maps, compared with local features and potentially enhanced. Deliverable: a confidence layer for all AA maps to be uploaded to the webGIS.
  • Action Nº 7: Translation of standardised existing habitat maps to Eunis. Before uploading the maps onto the webGIS, they need to be made homogeneous using the Eunis classification. The translation to Eunis will require map authors to be consulted and southern Eunis types will need some specific work. Deliverable: a set of homogeneous Eunis maps for AA.

Activity nº 3

  • Action Nº 1: Development of a survey scoping plan. Scoping surveys in a coherent way is a key step to optimise survey work with respect to the available budget and available resources. Mesh-Atlantic is a suitable arena for testing recent guidelines and aiming at best practice within the partnership. A harmonised survey plan addressing the five project?s survey sites will be drafted during a bespoke workshop.
  • Action Nº 2 Carry out new surveys. Insofar as possible, the partners will organise joint surveys in which various techniques and mapping skills will be combined and evaluated. The task leader will keep track of survey planning, schedules and collate reports among the partnership. This will include reporting on new habitats discovered.
  • Action Nº 3 Create a survey metadata base. To keep track of sites surveyed by the project, a survey data base will be created in the webGIS giving details on the site outline, the techniques used, more generally metadata on the survey as per existing templates. Deliverable: the Mesh-Atlantic survey data base.

Activity nº 4

  • Action Nº 1 Survey data post-processing. This task is intended to ensure that survey data are processed in synchronous and similar ways. This is mostly the case for remote sensing data (optical and acoustic alike) where there is a step between raw data and data ready for interpretation by habitat experts. The task leader will recommend the use of best practice (from recently compiled methodological guides). A workshop will be organised on a specific common data set to intercalbrate tools (e.g. backscatter from side scan sonar or multibeam). Deliverable: post-processed data sets on each site.
  • Action Nº 2 Interpretation of new survey data to make habitat maps. Most partners are committed to producing several habitat maps for Natura 2000 and MPA sites in a range of locations through cross-border test scenarios. Data processing and interpretation will be carried out on the project?s survey data (also using background data existing prior to the project) and this will lead to harmonised standards aimed at consistent interpretation of physical and biological mapping data. Partner interaction will occur at all stages in this testing phase. Deliverable: final or draft site maps with quality assessment and metadata.
  • Action Nº 3 Expand the catalogue of seabed signatures. The Mesh catalogue of signatures has been maintained by Ifremer for two years and it is ready to incorporate new signatures from southern regions as revealed by new surveys. The project will need to consider whether this internet version should be translated into a paper document and at what cost. Deliverable: update of web catalogue of signatures, also published as a paper catalogue if deemed relevant.
  • Action Nº 4 Applicability of Eunis to Atlantic area; Slection of Eunis cut-offs. There will be two aspects to dealing with Eunis. The first strand of work is to improve the Eunis classification and complete it with southern Europe cases and possibly ask for the incorporation of new Eunis types where needed. The second strand will take into account differences in ecological character between Northern Europe basins and those in Biscaye and the Iberian peninsula basins to re-assess the relevance of threshold values to be used in EUNIS modelling. Deliverable: report on assessing the physical definition of Eunis classes and submission of new types to JNCC/EEA.
  • Action Nº 5 Review broad-scale modelling approaches. The production of the Atlantic Area broad-scale habitat map is based on wide-coverage of geophysical and hydrological data. Recent projects along with the ongoing EuSeaMap project provide ample ground for reviewing approaches. However working along common lines with the latter is considered a priority. The action lead partner will have to attend specific meetings to draft specifications appropriate to the AA area. Deliverable: modelling specifications report
  • Action Nº 6 Post process input variables to a common grid. All input data layers will be converted into raster formats before they are used in the model. This means that the smooth boundaries of vector data such as sediment maps will become pixelated at a certain scale. This conversion is necessary because the project will use map algebra to combine the data layers. Deliverable: model input layers in compatible raster format. The lead partner will receive compatible data layers from each partner and stitch them into single homogeneous maps covering the whole AA.
  • Action Nº 7 Produce a broad-scale Eunis habitat map for Atlantic Area. The resolution of the raster grid to be adopted for the model will be set in line with that of the EuSeaMap, most probably between 500 m and 1 km and any layers at a coarser resolution will require additional sampling. The output raster maps expressed in Eunis 3 will be provided in digital (on webGIS and for download) and printed versions. The project team will decide on a reasonable resolution for the printed map, probably in the kilometric range, with a view to reproducing it on A0 posters. This will include capturing the map metadata. Deliverable: final map in digital raster and paper form.
  • Action Nº 8 Work on statistical accuracy assessment of broad-scale maps. This task will be carried out by external validation, which refers to a statistical process to compare sampled areas of the final map and recent habitat maps produced on selected sites. Such validation will be undertaken at selected locations in the four participating countries where recent habitat maps are available. Output: a quality flag in modelled map metadata
  • Action Nº 9 Develop a method to integrate modelled and interpreted maps. The idea is to be able to dynamically provide a habitat description at every single location in the AA marine area, whether it is from an interpreted or modelled, historical or recent map. The provision of Eunis maps within the task will make this possible and transitions should be seamless for the most part. Deliverable: report giving specifications on how to suitably enhance the interactive webGIS to this end.

Activity nº 5

  • Action Nº 1 Project website (internet and extranet), including multi-lingual sections and social networking.
  • Action Nº 2 Stakeholders' database, questionnaire, feedback, meetings and training
  • Action Nº 3 On line map delivery (webGIS)
  • Action Nº 4 Project's marketing material (brochure, newsletter)
  • Action Nº 5 Short technical workshops on specific topics (also open to outside attendees)
  • Action Nº 6 Staff placement for knowledge interchange
  • Action Nº 7 Production of communication material for end-users, including the general public
  • Action Nº 8 Dissemination of technical results in publications and international conferences (in potential collaboration with the MAIA project)
  • Action Nº 9 Final conference and proceedings
  • Action Nº 10 Follow-on strategy at national and European level

Useful outputs for MAIA

Activity nº 2:

  • A compiled set of habitat maps for the Atlantic Area with a metadata catalogue
  • A polygon GIS layer giving confidence for all compiled maps
  • Harmonised source data layers (substrate, bathymetry and physical data) over the AA marine area

Activity nº 3:

  • Coherent survey data sets over several MPA pilot sites, mostly Natura 2000 at sea ( including a survey data base)
  • Enrichment of the Mesh set of surveying Recommended Operating Guidelines (report on ROGs)
  • Enhancement of southern Europe habitats and new proposals to Eunis (report).
  • Organization of a workshop on survey scoping

Activity nº 4:

  • Maps for five MPA or Natura 2000 pilot sites.
  • A catalogue of seabed signatures for southern Atlantic area habitats
  • Improvements to the EUNIS for southern UE and deep habitats
  • A broad-scale predicted map of habitats for the Atlantic Area at Eunis level 3 to 4, to be displayed seamlessly on the webGIS

Activity nº 5:

  • Set-up of a project website, with multi-lingual sections and public (internet) and restricted (extranet) access areas;
  • Set-up of an on-line community associated with the project using available social networking applications, aiming to rapidly communicate results and outputs;
  • Stakeholders workshops, namely for feedback from project actions, but also for training on the use of the webGIS;
  • Staff placement and technical workshops, for training and capacity building;
  • Production and dissemination of communication and marketing material for stakeholders and the general public;
  • Set-up of activities to be implemented namely in science centres attracting students and educators from a range of scholar levels;
  • Dissemination of reports and technical results on the project website and on national and international meetings and conferences;
  • Final conference and proceedings.

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