Two new Natural England reports have been published in response to concerns about marine ecosystems in UK waters.
Currently, only 2.2 per cent of UK waters are protected for marine conservation; however, the UK Government’s target is to establish an ecologically coherent network of well-managed Marine Protected Areas by 2012. The Marine and Coastal Access Bill, currently being approved by parliament, is expected to help build a network of sites for the protection of rare and endangered species of marine life.
Natural England’s report is designed to help the government achieve its goal by identifying inadequately protected landscape and habitat types. It takes two of the network design principles adopted by Defra as the basis of its investigation, providing guidance on both representativity (the presence of every different habitat type within a network) and replication (the presence of several of the same habitat type within a network).
A second Natural England report investigates the phenomenon of a burgeoning population of Pacific oysters in UK waters, thought to be a consequence of rising sea temperatures that favour reproduction. The report was commissioned after concerns were raised about the possible impact of the oysters’ presence in the North East Kent European marine sites. By establishing a record of inter-tidal distribution and density, the report will help inform the future monitoring of the oyster population and management of the marine sites.