ICES overviews shed light on marine ecosystems

The regions covered by the ICES ecosystem overviews The regions covered by the ICES ecosystem overviews

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has published ecosystem overviews for the Barents Sea, the Bay of Biscay and Iberian waters, the Celtic Seas and the North Sea.

The new publications detail human interactions with the marine environment, providing descriptions of the ecosystems, identifying the main human imposed pressures, and explaining how these impact on key ecosystem components.

As ecosystem understanding is not uniform across regions, the development of regional overviews ensures that local management objectives can be addressed.

Leonie O’Dowd, member of the ICES Working Group on Ecosystem Assessment of Western European Shelf Seas, explained: “We hope that the overviews will not only give insight into the specific ecological characteristics and human pressures within each ecosystem but also highlight the synergies and differences across the ICES ecoregions.”

The overviews are living documents. Eider Andonegi, co-chair of the working group, said: "The overviews contain the most up-to-date knowledge available in the scientific community to qualitatively define the structure and functioning of these systems.”

As the environment and ecosystems vary over time, the overviews will provide stakeholders with the latest information on natural variability, trends, and step changes in the dynamics of their respective ecosystems. Ms O'Dowd continued: "The process of drafting the overviews initiated the development of consistent data products across the ecoregions". 

Darius Campbell, executive secretary of OSPAR sees the overviews as "a real step towards real ecosystem based management". He points out that "it is excellent to see ICES embedding its fisheries management decisions in an understanding of the general state of the environment through these ecosystem overviews."

ICES aims to provide an overview for each of its ecoregions and is currently developing overviews for the Baltic, Norwegian and Iceland seas.

To read the ecosystem overviews, visit the ICES website.

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