Workshop on ecological valuing of areas of the Barents Sea (WKBAR)
ICES WKBAR met to provide the scientific basis to determine the ecological value of areas of the Barents Sea by formulating a definition of ecological value, developing criteria, and a framework to identify areas of special ecological value in the Barents Sea, and exemplify the potential for practical use in management.
Although there is no unique way to define an ecologically valuable area, there is general consen-sus that areas that (i) are of special importance for life history stages of species, (ii) are essential for threatened, rare of declining species, (iii) contain endemic species or populations, (iv) have high biological and genetic diversity, (v) have particularly high productivity, or (vi) contain unique geomorphological or oceanographic features, are ecologically valuable. Different organ-izations, such as the Intergovernmental Maritime Organization (IMO) and UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), use slightly different criteria. WKBAR however agreed to use the criteria used by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to describe Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs). The CBD criteria are globally accepted, conform with the other sets of criteria, and are specifically meant to be used for highlighting the ecological and biological value of a sea area.
A conceptual framework is described comprising a step-wise approach. First, layers are selected that represent the relevant ecosystem components and ecosystem functions given the criteria for ecological value. Second, the core distribution areas of the selected layers are delineated based on available data and informed by expert knowledge. Third, layers are overlaid and aggregated, and an expert elicitation process is used to delineate the final valuable areas. Component layers are also classified in terms of specific ecological dimensions, allowing the generation of maps representing these dimensions in the Barents Sea. This approach was generally supported by the participants recognising that both numerical data and expert knowledge are required. Additionally, given the seasonality in ecological processes in the Barents Sea there is a need to consider how seasonality would be represented in the data layers.
A list of oceanographic, habitat, and ecological data were 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 is in compliance with the FAIR data policy of ICES.
It proved impossible to test the conceptual framework in practise because only a limited number of data layers were available in the appropriate format, but the available layers were used to inform the discussion and development of several aspects of the conceptual framework.
The results of the workshop provide guidance for compilation and processing of the required data and knowledge layers to map the ecologically valuable areas in the Russian and Norwegian parts of the Barents Sea. Different types of value maps can be produced for different purposes, such as conservation and sustainable use of the sea areas. In a future step the sensitivity of the areas for human activities could also be assessed.
This work is part of the integrated ecosystem assessment which is a core component of the im-plementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Management of the Barents Sea. WGIBAR could provide a suitable platform for future work.
Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee