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MOPODECO

Modeling of the Potential coverage of habitat-forming species and Development of tools to evaluate the Conservation status of the marine Annex I habitats

image of MOPODECO

MOPODECO has aimed to fill the gaps in harmonisation of the definition of the EU Habitat Directive Annex I habitats and the view on the main pressures and threats to these habitats between the Nordic countries and countries surrounding the Baltic Sea. The project has also aimed to develop standards for describing the functional characteristics of the Annex I habitats, including standards for application of modelling tools for quantifying the coverage of habitat-forming species. In MOPODECO, the harmonised definitions, pressure evaluation matrices, functional descriptors and habitat model application standards are integrated into proposals for unified indicators of favourable conservation status for Annex I habitats in Nordic waters. Common standards for assessing the favourable conservation status of these habitats are suggested by applying these indicators in case studies from the northern and southern parts of the Baltic Sea.

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Conclusions

MOPODECO has accomplished the main aims of the project, thus supporting the Environmental Action Programme 2009–2012 of the Nordic Council of Ministers in several ways, including assisting the common strategy for sustainable development and implementation of the EC Marine Strategy in the Nordic environment. The harmonization of environmental protection work in the Nordic countries has been strengthened both through the establishment of a Pressure Evaluation Matrix and suggestions for harmonisation of definitions of Annex I habitats in the Baltic Sea. The Pressure Evaluation Matrix will further support the sustainable use of the resources in the Baltic Sea, and the basis for ecosystem approach to management in this regional sea. The deliverables from the conceptual indicator models, the macroalgal cover indicator model, bladderwrack and blue mussel models have all greatly assisted priorities related to the development of both habitat mapping tools and EcoQOs for the Baltic Sea. Albeit limitations, the potential for developing reliable regional statistical models of the coverage of habitat forming species for the description of the biological features of Annex I habitats has been demonstrated, and provided availability of high-resolution data on bathymetry and surface sediments is secured successful applications could be a reality within all Nordic waters in the medium term (5–10 years). The application of deterministic, ecological models for prediction of the potential regional coverage of blue mussels and other communities of suspension-feeding animals could be reality in the short term (0–5 years). The transnational analysis of vegetation data from Norwegian waters to the Gulf of Finland has indicated that total vegetation cover might both represent one of the best functional descriptors of reefs, and provide excellent input data on reference and target conditions for assessing the conservation status of reef habitats in Skagerrak and the Baltic Sea. The great advantage of total macro-algae cover is that it can be used over a large depth range, whereas cumulative cover can be used as a substitute in more shallow waters while controlling for physical disturbance. Once better input data become available, the habitat model and assessment tool applications constitute case studies which can easily be taken up and further refined by HELCOM and national institutes involved in developing assessment tools for biodiversity and conservation status of the species and habitats in the Baltic Sea.

English

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