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Assessment of deep-shelf megafauna in UK seas

Project Description

Project Rationale :
The UK has implemented over 200 marine protected areas (MPAs), with over 25 million km2 of MPA now designated globally. The routine monitoring of such a large network implies substantial financial costs.
Since the 2010 Quality Status Report, OSPAR countries have nominated a further 289 marine protected areas to the Network, now comprising 448 protected areas, representing 5.9% of the OSPAR Maritime Area. Considerable progress has been made towards an ecologically coherent and well-managed network, particularly within the Greater North Sea and Celtic Seas. Nevertheless, further work is required.
The assessment methodologies for establishing ecological coherence and management effectiveness within Marine Protected Areas require development before the next OSPAR assessment, to ensure the results are robust. To further develop these assessments the following information is required: Data and information to help support evaluation of the OSPAR conservation objectives, distribution, protection, and status of OSPAR listed features and habitats; knowledge of critical areas for wide-ranging species; and, improved information on the management status of all OSPAR MPAs.

This project will assess the spatial and temporal patterns in the benthic ecology of UK shelf seas and determine potential drivers. The project will use existing data and collect new information with the UK fleet of marine autonomous and robotic vehicles from sites around the UK, including Marine Protected Areas (e.g. Haig Fras Special Area of Conservation) and sites of industry importance (e.g. Faroe-Shetland Channel and Northern North Sea). The primary data will be in situ seafloor imagery, with associated material collected via a variety of methods, including remotely operated vehicles. These data allow for the assessment of spatial and temporal patterns in benthic megafaunal assemblages. Biological change will be interpreted with reference to a wide range of physical, chemical and biological information available for the study sites, with a particular focus on habitat data. Changes will be assessed using a variety of statistical approaches and interpreted using ecological theory. Patterns in standing stock, size, biomass, biodiversity, and community structure are likely to be the primary focus of the project.

Training :
The INSPIRE DTP programme provides comprehensive personal and professional development training alongside extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial/policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of Southampton and hosted at the Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems group at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton.
The student will receive training in seagoing sample collection from an ocean going research vessel. They will also receive training in the analysis of photographic and sample data and subsequent interpretation. This will include processing and identification of deep-sea megafaunal data from both images and specimens, data processing and analysis using a range of appropriate statistical techniques. The student will also receive training in using the R programming language for statistical analysis and data processing and ArcGIS software.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click link to View Website for more information on eligibilty and how to apply


Huvenne, V.A.I., Bett, B.J., Masson, D.G., Le Bas, T.P., Wheeler, A.J., 2016. Effectiveness of a deep-sea cold-water coral Marine Protected Area, following eight years of fisheries closure. Biological Conservation 200, 60-69.

Benoist, N.M.A., Morris, K.J., Bett, B.J., Durden, J.M., Huvenne, V.A.I., Le Bas, T.P., Wynn, R.B., Ware, S.J., Ruhl, H.A., (submitted). Monitoring mosaic biotopes in a marine conservation zone by autonomous underwater vehicle. Conservation Biology.

Basford, D., Eleftheriou, A., 1988. The benthic environment of the North Sea (56° to 61°N). J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. U.K. 68, 125-141.

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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