Review of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive descriptor 6 - 2014



​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Marine Strategy Framework Directive addresses seafloor integrity through Descriptor 6. Good environmental status (GES) will be achieved when seafloor integrity is at a level that ensures that the structure and functions of the ecosystems are safeguarded and benthic ecosystems, in particular, are not adversely affected.

A workshop to review the 2010 Commission Decision 2010/477/EU on criteria and methodological standards on good environmental status (GES) of marine waters in what concerns Descriptor 6 Seafloor Integrity was held in Copenhagen from 2-3 September 2014. On the basis of this workshop, a report and amendment text was finalized by a core group and delivered to the European Commission.

The principal goal of ICES work in this matter has been to review elements of seafloor integrity and suggest ways to improve the scientific guidance to help achieve GES by making it clearer and simpler. Scoping the actual concept of seafloor integrity played a large part of the workshop. Participants looked at the MSFD decision to assess whether EU Member States will have scientifically sound assessments of seafloor integrity if the current guidance was followed.

It was concluded that the present criteria should be revised into new criteria, Functionality and Recoverability, which are more closely related to resilience and recovery potential of the seafloor. For both of these , information on both sensitivity and pressures need to be considered together to evaluate overall impact. Pressure indicators alone will result in an incomplete assessment. 

Scientific guidance will be required in prioritizing functions to be assessed under each criteria, as well as choosing indicators and establishing GES boundaries for seafloor integrity (with reference points and targets). A substantial body of scientific knowledge that can serve as the basis for this guidance has already been consolidated in the current D6 workshop report (2014) and ICES/JRC 2010 Task Group 6 report. 

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