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Researchers develop marine biodiversity tools

More than 250 European researchers have collaborated in developing new tools to understand marine biodiversity and assess the environmental status of our oceans.

The DEVOTES project (DEVelopment Of innovative Tools for understanding marine biodiversity and assessing good Environmental Status) was supported by the European Commission and has ended today (8 November) after four years of activity and a budget of €12m.

The research has resulted in innovative tools, developed and validated, that communicate theoretical and applied ecology in an integrative way in order to advance knowledge of changes produced in marine ecosystems and biodiversity.

The team of researchers, co-ordinated by Angel Borja, PhD in Biology, from AZTI-Tecnalia, Spain, has proposed an operational definition of good environmental status and completed new models relaying human activities, pressures, changes in the state, impacts on human welfare and management responses.

During this period, the team has analysed the current monitoring network in Europe and has developed free software, which includes more than 600 indicators used in the EU for the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

DEVOTES has also developed and validated 29 indicators, from which 16 are new and 13 have been refined, including all ecosystem components and the biological descriptors of the MSFD.

Borja said: “Complex, holistic assessments of environmental status are now possible. DEVOTES has developed an integrated, nested environmental status assessment tool (NEAT) which makes such assessment easier.”

The assessment has been undertaken using descriptors such as the alteration of biodiversity, the introduction of non-indigenous species, commercial fish, the alteration of food-webs, eutrophication and seabed integrity.

Anna-Stiina Heiskanen of the Finish Environmental Agency said: “Economy and ecology can work hand-in-hand. In these difficult financial times, DEVOTES has developed cost-effective indicators and tools for fit-for-purpose marine monitoring and assessment. The NEAT tool is freely available and has been demonstrated to many member states”.