Sustainable Marine Management Implementation
Submitting InstitutionHeriot-Watt University
Unit of AssessmentEarth Systems and Environmental Sciences
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Environmental Sciences: Environmental Science and Management
Biological Sciences: Ecology, Other Biological Sciences
Summary of the impact
Based on biogenic reef research at Heriot-Watt University (HWU), nine
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been designated and established in the
Northeast Atlantic, Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, and a further six are
under consideration. These MPAs represent 10% of the Caribbean Sea area,
6% of the UK's inshore Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and 18% of the
MPAs under consideration in Scotland. In addition, our ecological
assessments of the biodiversity value and structure of biogenic habitats,
and their sensitivities to widespread stressors, stakeholder conflict
assessment and economic assessments have underpinned the objectives,
management measures and assessment of MPAs, and other marine spatial
planning initiatives, undertaken in the context of both the current marine
environmental conditions and future climate change trajectories.
For over 20 years, marine scientists at HWU's have been continuously
discovering biogenic reefs formed by molluscs, polychaetes and corals
whilst researching the distribution, biodiversity value and function of
them (e.g. Moore et al., 1998 ; Roberts et al.
2009 ). These habitat types have increasingly become the focus of
protective spatial management measures as their biodiversity value has
become better appreciated.
North Atlantic Research
HWU researchers have investigated reproductive biology, associated
biodiversity and rates of reef regeneration by the flame shell Limaria
hians. Similar work has been conducted by Lyndon and Mair
with other colleagues on the horse mussel Modiolus modiolus and
the fan worm Serpula vermicularis supported by Scottish Government
funded projects totalling £312k. Sanderson joined HWU in 2010 when
he developed this work further with Mair and Porter and
other colleagues at HWU supported by a further three Scottish Government
funded research projects totalling £163k. Reefs formed by flame shells (Limaria
hians) and fan-worms (Serpula vermicularis) have been mapped
during aforementioned projects, including the world's largest known flame
shell bed. Horse mussel reef research dates back to annual environmental
monitoring studies conducted in the late 1970s and 1980s by Mair
and Lyndon investigating density, biodiversity and population
structure whilst further projects have investigated biological health.
Caribbean and Eastern Pacific Research
With support from a £120k Defra Darwin Initiative project, Mair
mapped habitats of conservation importance in the Colombian Caribbean
(Mitchell et al. 2001 ). This was the first international
research collaboration the Colombian government agency, Coralina, had
undertaken. Subsequently, Side undertook research with EU INCO-DC
(International Cooperation with Developing Countries) Framework support
(£300k) in collaboration with Coralina and the Charles Darwin Research
Foundation in the Galapagos Islands. The research by Kerr and Side
integrated fisheries stock assessment, stakeholder conflict analysis and
socio-economic assessments to underpin MPA designation (Seaflower
biosphere reserve) and management in both Seaflower and Galapagos (Davos et
al. 2007 ). Mair collaborated with researchers in the
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Darwin Initiative support
(£220k) to map habitats and evaluate patterns of biodiversity in Las
Perlas Archipelago including reef forming Sabellariidae (Mair et
al. 2009 ).
Pressures on biogenic habitats
Biological impact studies on biogenic reefs (Limaria, Serpula,
Lophelia & Modiolus spp.) showing the sensitivity of
biogenic habitats to anthropogenic stressors have been developed in close
collaboration with government agencies leading to impact before
publication (e.g. Cook et al., 2013 ). Based on this
understanding of impact, Sanderson, Mair and Porter
with other HWU staff have ongoing research interests in indicators of Good
Environmental Status (JNCC funded research project; £50k) and restorative
potential though Esmee Fairbairn Foundation funding (£89k). Research by Porter
and Sanderson has used habitat modelling under IPCC scenarios to
show the potential for the biogeographic range of protected habitats to
change their distribution in relation to international MPA networks.
Similarly, Roberts is leading work on calcifying biogenic habitats
for the UK Ocean Acidification programme sponsored by NERC, Department of
Environment and Climate Change, Defra and LWEC.
References to the research
The references identified with * are the ones which best indicate the
quality of the underpinning research.
 Cook, R. L., Fariñas-Franco, J., Gell, F., Holt, R., Holt, T.,
Lindenbaum, C., Porter, J.S., Seed, R., Skates, L., Stringell, T.
& Sanderson, W.G. 2013. The substantial first impact of bottom
fishing on rare biodiversity hotspots: a dilemma for evidence-based
conservation. PLoS ONE 8(8): e69904. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069904
* Davos, C., Siavakara, K., Santorineou, A., Side, J., Taylor,
M., & Barriga, P. 2007. Zoning of marine protected areas: Conflicts
and co-operation in the Galapagos and San Andres archipelagos. Ocean &
Coastal Management 50 (3-4) 223-252. doi:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2006.03.005
 Mair, J.M., Sibaja-Cordero, J.A., Arroyo, M.F., Merino, D.,
Vargas, R., Guzman, H.M., & Benfield, S., 2009. Mapping benthic faunal
communities in the shallow and deep sediments of Las Perlas Archipelago,
Pacific Panama. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 58, 375-383. doi:
 Mitchell, A., Garcia, M., Mow-Robinson, J.M., Karpouzlie, E. & Mair,
J. 2001. Marine mapping techniques using remotely sensing data in
the archipelago of San Andrés, Providence and Santa Catalina (Colombia).
Proceedings of the IX Latinamerican Congress on Marine Science (COLACMAR),
San Andres, Colombia, September 17-29, 4 pages.
* Moore C.G., Saunders G.R. & Harries D.B. 1998. The status and
ecology of reefs of Serpula vermicularis L (Polychaeta:
Serpulidae) in Scotland. Aquatic Conservation V8 pp645-656. DOI:
* Roberts, J.M., Davies, A.J., Henry, L-A., Duineveld, G.C.A.,
Lavaleye, M.S.S., Dodds, L.A., Maier, C., van Soest, R.W.M., Bergman,
M.I.N., Huhnerbach, V., Huvenne, V., Sinclair, D., Watmough, T., Long, D.,
Green, S., van Haren, H. 2009. Mingulay reef complex: an interdisciplinary
study of cold-water coral habitat, and biodiversity. Marine Ecology
Progress Series 397: 139-151. DOI:10.3354/meps08112
Details of the impact
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) establishes that 10% of
coastal and marine environments should be conserved through protected
areas by 2020, an ambition that is not yet even half realized. Across the
North East Atlantic, Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, nine Marine Protected
Areas (MPAs) have been designated based on HWU research and a further six
are under consideration since the inception of the CBD at the 1992 Rio
1. Mair's research with the Colombian government agency Coralina
led (in combination with Kerr and Side) to the designation
of the San Andres archipelago as a United Nations Man and Biosphere
Seaflower Reserve in 2000 (Mitchell et al. 2001 ). At the
United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Conference in Nagoya, in
October 2010, Coralina won the International Union for the Conservation of
Nature's (IUCN) Countdown 2010 Biodiversity Award for the work in San
Andres. A senior member of staff [S1] of Coralina, wrote: "The
management of the reserve has been challenging work ....... but....
based on good scientific information [inc work by Mair]. It was a great
honour therefore to have our work recognised by .... Nagoya 2010.....".
Elsewhere, Mair's collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical
Research Institute (STRI) in Panama led directly to the protection of Las
Perlas Archipelago as a marine Special Management Zone and underpinned
subsequent management (Mair et al., 2009 ). A senior staff
member at STRI [S2] expressed the Institute's "gratitude to the
Heriot-Watt University for ......the ground research work that allowed
the Panamanian government to designate the Archipelago Las Perlas as a
Special Management Zone...... should help in guiding science-based
2. HWU researchers (Mair, Sanderson and Lyndon) have a track record of
research on temperate biogenic structures that has led to the designation
of European MPAs called SACs under the EU Habitats Directive. Before 2008,
these have been designated at Loch Sunart, Loch Creran, Loch Duich Long
and Alsh and Sullom Voe based on their work. Since 2008, the Isle of Man
government have used work by Sanderson and Porter (Cook et al. 2013 )
as a core component to the permanent protection of 6 km2 of horse mussel
(Modiolus modiolus) reef in the Irish Sea. "This research [Cook et
al. 2013 ] supported the permanent protection of the reef as part
of the Ramsey Marine Nature Reserve, designated in October 2011.",
[S3]. In November 2012, the cold water corals of East Mingulay became part
of another MPA of European importance (a candidate SAC) based on Robert's
on-going biodiversity research (Roberts et al. 2009 ). Marine Scotland,
[S4] confirm that "the GIS data supplied by [HWU] for Marine Scotland
Science's 2010 survey of the Mingulay Reef Complex was a key component
in the design of our survey [and was] key to the process of re-defining
the boundary for proposed East Mingulay Special Area of Conservation
3. Based on a track record of 23 commissioned projects from Scottish
Government's scientific and statutory conservation advisors, Scottish
Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland Science continue to commission HWU to
undertake research, survey and evaluate marine habitats as potential MPAs.
Since 2008 research by Lyndon, Mair, Porter, Roberts and Sanderson (and
other colleagues) has been key to policy implementation in the form of MPA
proposals under the Marine (Scotland) Act (2010) in Blue Mull Sound, Wyre
and Rousay Sounds, Noss Head, Southern Trench, Lochs Linnhe, Etive, Leven
and Eil (www.scotland.gov.uk/marineconsultation).
A senior marine advisor at Scottish Natural Heritage, [S5] confirms "HWU
involvement in survey, research and assessment ... has contributed to
the designation and sustainable management of a number of Special Areas
of Conservation (SAC)".
4. Biogenic habitat research by Mair, Porter, Sanderson
and Roberts has underpinned MPA policy within the North East
Atlantic for 'threatened and/or declining species and habitats' under the
Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East
Atlantic (the OSPAR Convention). The research was widely assimilated in
assessments published between 2008 and 2010 on the status and key threats
for deep water sponge aggregations, horse mussel beds and cold water coral
habitats. These assessments have led to an international policy to protect
biogenic habitats as 'Priority Marine Habitats' in an MPA network across
15 North East Atlantic countries. For deep water sponge aggregations,
their significance has been recognised globally through Roberts'
work under the United Nations Environment Programme (Section 5: Hogg et
al., 2010 [S6]) and these and other habitats have been identified in
Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSMAs) beyond
national jurisdictions in the North-East Atlantic through Roberts'
work on the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (Advice
Drafting Group June 2013, Copenhagen).
5. Research to support sustainable development, especially protected
areas, has been enhanced through a programme of outreach. MPA biogenic
habitats have been widely promoted at three annual Dunbar Science
Festivals (2011-13) by Sanderson, Porter, Mair and Roberts
(each >3,000 visitors), the 2013 Orkney International Science Festival
(Sanderson, Porter, Mair) and the Edinburgh Science
Festival during National Science and Engineering Week in March-April 2013
(Mair, Porter, Roberts). Roberts integrated
a school visit in the Outer Hebrides (Benbecula) into an MPA research
cruise on RV James Cook in May 2012.
6. HWU has a strong track record of environmental indicator development
under the Water Framework Directive (Fernandes). Research by Lyndon,
Mair, Porter Sanderson and Roberts since 2008 has
been widely cited in the development of the UKs biodiversity indicators of
Good Environmental Status for biogenic structures under the EC Marine
Strategy Framework Directive (see section 5: Moffat et al. 2011
[S7]), an area where Sanderson provides on-going advice to the UK
and EU (through DEFRA and OSPAR Benthic Expert Groups).
7. Kerr and Side's research in the Galapagos (e.g. Davos
et al. 2007 ) provided baseline data (fisheries and
socio-economic) for the establishment of the Seaflower biosphere reserve
in San Andres and on-going fisheries management in the Galapagos Marine
Reserve (GMR). Capacity building exchanges included training for Charles
Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and Coralina (San Andres) [S2] research
staff at ICIT. Additionally an ICIT PhD student (Alex Hearn) was in post
as Co-ordinator of Fisheries Research at CDRS 2002-2008. Kerr was
recently invited back to the Galapagos to present at a 2010 UNESCO
workshop exploring socio-economic aspects of future management of the GMR.
Overall, the beneficiaries of HWUs sustained research into biogenic reef
habitats are a number of government agencies, NGOs and communities
involved in protected area management throughout Central America and North
Western Europe. Sustainable protected area management can be highly
socially valuable to communities and economies beyond conventional
resource extraction because the ecosystem services of biogenic reefs can,
for example, stabilise sediment, maintain water quality and sequester
carbon as well as providing human food and recreation.
Sources to corroborate the impact
[S1] A senior member of staff of Coralina and
[S2] A senior manager of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Will confirm the importance of HWU research to the management of San
Andres and Las Perlas Archipelagos. [S2] Can also corroborate HWU's role
in the development of research staff based in CDRS and San Andres.
[S3] Senior member of the Isle of Man Government's biodiversity team:
Will confirm the role of HWU research in the designation and management
of Ramsey Marine Nature Reserve.
[S4] Marine Scotland Science:
Will confirm the importance of HWU research and analyses in establishing
East Mingulay as a Special Area of Conservation.
[S5] Senior Member of Scottish Natural Heritage's marine team:
Will confirm HWU research contribution to the designation and sustainable
management of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) under the EC Habitats
Directive since the 2008.
[S6] Hogg, M.M., Tendal, O.S., Conway, K.W., Pomponi, S.A., van Soest,
R.W.M, Gutt, J., Krautter, M., Roberts, J.M. 2010. Deep-sea Sponge
Grounds: Reservoirs of Biodiversity. UNEP-WCMC Biodiversity Series No. 32.
UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, UK.
[S7] Moffat, C., Aish, A., Hawkridge, J.M., Miles, H., Mitchell, P.I.,
McQuatters-Gollop, A., Frost, M., Greenstreet, S., Pinn, E., Proudfoot,
R., Sanderson, W. G., & Tasker, M. L. 2011. Advice on United Kingdom
biodiversity indicators and targets for the Marine Strategy Framework
Directive. Healthy and Biologically Diverse Seas Evidence Group Report
to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.