Identifying areas of special ecological value in the Barents Sea

Experts from the Barents Sea region met in Copenhagen for a special workshop.
Published: 27 May 2019

​​​​​Identifying ecologically valued areas will provide key pieces of information for the spatial management of human activities. However, as there is of yet no agreed definition of the areas in the Barents Sea, a workshop to identify joint data flows and criteria for mapping special/valued areas in the Barents Sea (WKBAR), set out to formulate a definition of ecological value, while developing criteria and a framework to identify areas of special ecological value, and exemplify the potential for practical use in management.

Marine spatial planning (MSP) is one of the tools that will be used for integrated management in the ongoing implementation of ecosystem-based management (EBM) approaches in the Barents Sea.

What defines an ecological area?

There is no unique way to define an ecological valuable area. However, there is consensus that areas containing habitats or environments that are essential for threatened, rare, or declining species, areas that contain endemic species or populations, areas that have high biological and genetic diversity or particularly high productivity, and areas that contain unique geomorphological or oceanographic features are ecologically valuable.

Criteria defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity (Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas) were used to select the ecosystem components contributing to the ecological value of an area. A list of oceanographic, habitat, and ecological data was also compiled, based on earlier monitoring reports, that can be used in the valuation of areas, including information on data source, areal coverage, spatial and temporal resolution, as well as data holders and contact points. A process of data management is described that can be used to generate the required data layers that complies with the FAIR data policy of ICES.

Identifying areas of special ecological value in the Barents Sea

WKBAR developed a conceptual framework with a stepwise approach of selecting and analysing data layers. While a lack of data layers in the appropriate format meant that the conceptual framework could not be tested, the results of the workshop provide guidance for the compilation and processing of the required data and knowledge layers to map the ecological valuable areas in the Russian and Norwegian parts of the Barents Sea. Adriaan Rijnsdorp, co-chair of the workshop pointed out the importance of working together, "Because data policies differ between the countries, Norwegian and Russian scientists need to collaborate to produce the data layers using a common methodology."  ICES Working Group on the Integrated Assessments of the Barents Sea will provide a suitable platform for this work.

Different types of value maps can be produced for different purposes, such as conservation and sustainable use of the sea areas, and as a future step, the sensitivity of the areas to human activities can be integrated.

The results of this workshop will be used by ICES to produce advice for the joint identification and aggregating of data on environmental values in coastal and offshore areas in Norwegian and Russian part of the Barents Sea. This advice will be released on 5 July.​​

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​Participants at ICES Workshop to identify joint data flows and criteria for mapping special/valued areas in the Barents Sea (WKBAR). 

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Identifying areas of special ecological value in the Barents Sea

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