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New 'Countryside' Map of the UK Seas

Feb 09,2007 SACN


News release issued by Natural England on behalf of the UKSeaMap project

7 February 2007

A new 'countryside' map of UK seas

7 February 2007

A new 'countryside' map of UK seas

Surveying our seas is difficult. This means we know far less about it than we do about the land.  Until now we have not had a comprehensive picture of its habitats, as existing maps are restricted to small, detailed areas that are few and far between.  Now for the first time a more complete, broader picture has emerged following a two-year project to produce a new map of the sea that shows 44 large-scale 'marine landscapes'.  Marine landscapes reflect the equivalent of mountains, valleys and plains of the marine environment, together with major habitat types.  The UKSeaMap project is a partnership of ten organisations including Government Departments, agencies, advisers and conservation charities.

David Connor, a marine specialist who led the work at the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, explains: "Through our understanding of the physical and hydrographic factors that determine what wildlife occurs where, such as seabed sediments and water depth, we have developed an approach to predict variation in seabed ecology using data that covers large areas.  We brought together this well known data with new information such as that on light penetration, and how much the seabed is disturbed by waves.  By combining these, the UKSeaMap project has for the first time provided an insight into the broad pattern of marine habitats around the UK - a brand new map of our seas and the first of its kind in Europe."

Dr Paul Gilliland, a marine specialist with Natural England and Chair of the project's Steering Group, said: "We need to develop more sustainable management of the marine environment as a whole, not least in response to the growing use of the sea and the need to protect it. This requires us to understand its environmental features.  Because we can't readily survey them, UKSeaMap has taken a practical approach to providing such key information.  The wide range of funding partners shows that the project's results will have many applications, from environmental assessment to spatial and strategic planning.  We believe this new map will be a useful tool to assist Government, regulators, marine industries and scientific researchers in the decisions they take and advice they give."



Notes for Editors

1.         PDF copies of the marine landscapes map and the full report as well as pictures to illustrate some examples of the habitats that occur in different marine landscapes are available from the Natural England Press Office.  Further details, including a web mapping application showing the outputs from the project, can be found at www.jncc.gov.uk/UKSeaMap.

2.         For general enquiries about the project you can speak to Dr Paul Gilliland, Natural England, or for general or more technical enquiries to Dr David Connor, JNCC. If you are interested in particular parts of the UK and/or the views of particular partners, you can speak to the following: Dr Andrew Hill, Countryside Council for Wales; a representative of the Scottish Executive; Kate Tanner, RSPB. All enquiries should be made via the Natural England Press Office.

3.         Natural England Press Office contacts: tel. 0845 603 9953, email press.office@naturalengland.org.uk, out of hours 07970 098005.

4.         UKSeaMap started at the end of 2004. It was funded by the Countryside Council for Wales, The Crown Estate, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Department for Trade and Industry, Natural England (including match funds from the Interreg-funded project MESH), Department for Communities and Local Government, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scottish Executive and Worldwide Fund for Nature, and was undertaken by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. The project was overseen by a Project Steering Group comprising these organisations plus the British Geological Survey. The project and its draft outputs were subject to substantial consultation and review and considerable technical input was received from a number of bodies including suppliers of relevant data.

5.         'Marine landscapes' is the term used for a broadscale classification of our seas, reflecting the equivalent of mountains, valleys and plains of the marine environment, together with major habitat types. The classification includes estuaries and bays on the coast, sandbanks and pinnacles offshore and seamounts in our deep seas.

6.         UKSeaMap is part of the Interreg IIIB-funded project MESH (Developing a framework for Mapping European Seabed Habitats), which has collated available detailed habitat maps for north-west Europe; these are available at www.searchMESH.net. The extensive areas lacking detailed maps are being 'filled in' through modelling studies such as UKSeaMap.

7.         The published report of the project is on sale from NHBS Ltd., Totnes, Devon TQ9 5XN (www.nhbs.co.uk), telephone 01803 865913.

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