General background

Marine biodiversity provides many ecosystem services upon which humans depend. However, biodiversity is undergoing profound changes, due to anthropogenic pressures, climatic warming and natural variation. Proper understanding of biodiversity patterns and ongoing changes is needed to assess consequences for ecosystem integrity, in order to be in a position to manage the natural resources.

Marine biodiversity varies over large scales in time and space. Knowledge-based management across Europe therefore requires a research and monitoring strategy with a far broader scope and vision than previously adopted at national and institutional levels. To achieve a more effective protection of the marine environment, the EU adopted the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) in June 2008. The MSFD aims to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) of EU's marine waters by 2021. The MSFD comprises a series of descriptors relating to biodiversity, ecosystems and relevant pressures. Describing GES for biodiversity requires understanding of ecosystem health and functioning at any point in time and geographic location, but also understanding of any ongoing positive or negative changes.

Such large-scale long-term understanding requires a permanent network of observation stations that monitor and study biodiversity across the multitude of environmental conditions across Europe. The framework for such a network has been established in projects as BIOMARE and MarBEF, with more than 90 biodiversity observatory sites. EMBOS will link this network directly to the emerging needs of the EU.

Marine biodiversity monitoring and research activities are mainly funded at the national level and often carried out to support existing (local, regional, or national) legal obligations. These projects produce valuable biodiversity data at local and/or national scale, but leave little or no room (lack of funds and meeting opportunities) for intercalibration, integration, optimization and innovation of sampling and monitoring strategies.

Most of the recent large scale FP research actions focus(ed) on the integration of existing data sets and the analysis of the gathered information and not on integrated sampling and monitoring strategies. Often these actions are hampered by the lack of standardized approaches.

Therefore, this Action EMBOS will step in in-between and fill in this gap by developing tools to gather marine biodiversity information in a standardized way that will better serve large scale and long term biodiversity monitoring and research and in the same way will provide relevant information for policy making and sustainable management and use of marine resources.

The requested funding by the Action will support the coordination, implementation and test-phase of the observatory network and related activities. Funding for further measuring and monitoring biodiversity will be obtained from outside sources, mainly through the committed partners and will be embedded in their routine research (and mainly nationally funded, e.g. to support existing legal obligations).