Monitoring and Surveillance Options


In the context of this report, "monitoring" is defined as:

  • ‘surveys undertaken to detect departure from agreed or predicted amounts of disturbance’

whereas "surveillance" is considered to mean:

  • ‘an attempt to detect unanticipated impacts, particularly ones that may be wide ranging, subtle or that only slowly become large and obvious’ (Hiscock, 1998a).

The development of methods for such ‘monitoring’ and ‘surveillance’ of marine conservation areas in the UK are at a relatively early stage of development.

The fundamental difficulties involved in the monitoring or surveilling of kelp biotopes can be highlighted from the following selected examples:

  • Kelp biotopes are underwater, and may extend offshore into areas with dangerous currents and exposed to storm action, and in depths of up to 25 m.
  • Many of the species of plants and animals found in kelp biotopes are small and difficult to distinguish.
  • There is a high level of spatial and temporal variability in kelp biotopes, which means that trends are difficult to establish against the high background of natural variation.

The marine environment is not a simple or relatively safe one in which to work, and in comparison to other complex biotopes on this planet, very few people are working on coastal marine ecological topics. Unfortunately, long term environmental projects require skilled scientists and are expensive, requiring a continuity of expertise and personnel, with both legislative and financial support. In the early 1970s, investigations of ecological interrelationships in marine habitats became deeply unfashionable (with regard to research funding) and this has left us with considerable gaps in our basic understanding of the ecology of coastal habitats.

In any monitoring programme, the above factors will need to be accepted and budgeted for. It must also be recognised that there are few short cuts or high technology solutions (e.g. aerial survey, satellite imagery) available for the derivation of detailed, accurate and reliable biological data, and that even simple sample collecting can be very time consuming, especially from remote locations.

Biological data apart, there are accepted methods and practices for monitoring changes in the physical and chemical nature of coastal waters. The routine and regular collection and analysis of data from representative locations within and without the designated area of an SAC should be planned. Weather data, seawater temperatures, salinity, wave height and direction, turbidity and irradiance at depth should all be collected, collated and analysed, ideally on a semi-continuous basis. Regular collections of standard measurements such as nutrient levels, chlorophyll concentrations in the seawater and scans for possible traces of pollutants should also be made. Monitoring devices deployed in situ should be used for data collection wherever possible.

Wherever possible standard measurements of a physical and chemical nature should be collected simultaneously at all SACs and the data analysed and published through a central laboratory. All biological data collection programmes should also liase and report through to the central laboratory. This would enable the rapid transmission of information on potentially dangerous conditions or population fluctuations to be notified to all other UK marine SACs and the laboratory would also serve as the liason point with other participants in European wide marine SACs.

Overview of options

Case studies

Methodology illustrations