Currently, we only protect 2.2% of UK waters for marine conservation (Defra 2008) but the UK is committed to delivering an ecologically coherent network of well managed Marine Protected Areas (MPA) by 2012. This will require:
- A network of sites that will adequately protect rare, threatened and valued habitats throughout our seas.
- Enough sites to conserve a range of habitats and species that are vital for the health of marine ecosystems.
In seeking to deliver an ecologically coherent network Defra have adopted a series of network design principles. Representativity and replication are two of the principles adopted. Defining and identifying important marine features and protecting examples of them is an essential first step in developing this coherent network. This report results from research commissioned to investigate the existing coverage and gaps in protection and provide guidance on representativity and replication for a coherent network of Marine Protected Areas in England’s territorial waters.
The study identifies gaps in the current coverage of broad scale landscape and habitat types that require protection in order to achieve a fully representative and replicated network of MPAs across each region.
Our knowledge and understanding of network principles has developed significantly since this work was commissioned in early 2008. In particular a workshop held by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) in September 2008 looked in more detail at representativity. However, Natural England have used the findings and recommendations to help:
- Produce technical guidance, with JNCC, on the selection of MCZs in order to achieve a coherent network of well managed MPAs.
- Provide background information to the Regional MCZ Projects tasked with identifying a network of Marine Conservation Zones by 2011.