By field surveys in inshore waters (usually < 5 km from shore and < 50 m deep), information was collected on littoral and sublittoral biotopes (i.e. habitat and community together) from Britain and Ireland. BioMar surveyed 1000 sites (half seashore) in Britain and 900 (200 seashore) sites in the Republic of Ireland. Of the about 6,000 species known to occur in British and Irish seas, about 3000 have been recorded in Britain and 1500 in Ireland by BioMar. Field surveys were completed in September 1996. This field information was used to (a) develop and demonstrate methods for data collection, (b) develop a classification of marine biotopes which will be applicable to inshore areas of the North-East Atlantic (but not the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas), and (c) identify areas of marine conservation importance. A concurrent survey of coastal lands of conservation importance in Ireland was conducted, and were used in conjunction with marine results in designating boundaries of nature conservation areas of both national and European importance.
The marine biotope classification developed by the project formed the basis for describing, mapping and comparing the conservation value of inshore marine areas. To ensure the classification will have wide application in the North-East Atlantic, meetings and workshops were held in Monkswood, Cambridge and Dublin with European specialists (including CORINE, ZNIEFF-Mer) in marine ecology and management in which the background, design, and preliminary results of the developing classification were discussed, and where necessary modified. This work has been continued by JNCC.
Because of the need to get area coverage of biotopes and the difficulties in personnel surveying every part of the coast, the use of remote survey methods for both littoral (using aerial photography) and sublittoral (using acoustic and video techniques) areas were examined. These remote survey techniques allowed point source data to be linked to larger coastal areas. Over 34 surveys were conducted in a range of sea areas in Britain and Ireland, used different research vessels and equipment, and involved collaboration with different groups (BioMar partners and various government authorities). The comparability of the maps produced from the surveys demonstrated the wide application of the methods.
A database was established for data storage and analysis, and can now be linked with computer mapping systems (Geographical Information Systems). The database currently stores environmental information on from over 22,000 sampling stations at over 10,000 sites on over 500 surveys around Britain and Ireland. A systematic survey of marine ecological literature relevant to British and Irish waters was conducted by JNCC and TCD respectively. Due to the large size and complexity of the database, the production of more accessible electronic publications (on diskettes, CD-ROM, and World Wide Web) was demonstrated (see publications).
In addition to its use in dissemination of data, the use of GIS in predicting the occurrence of marine habitats from widely available coastal data (e.g. coastline, bathymetry, wind direction and force) was explored (Crean et al. 1995). A wave exposure index was automated within the GIS so that the exposure for any piece of shoreline can be predicted. Additionally, a digital coastline of Ireland was labeled with the seashore types on the Admiralty charts so it was possible to calculate the amount of rock, sand, mud and other habitats from any given stretch of coast.
As a background to marine conservation management in Europe, a desk study of marine protected areas was been completed. Reports on this study, and internal reports on field surveys, have been submitted to the European Commission. There was considerable effort in disseminating information about BioMar. The partners made over 50 presentations at over 10 international and 14 national meetings, and produced over 40 publications (including 2 books).
The Director, National Parks and Wildlife, Dúchas - The Heritage Service, 51 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland.