Background The Marine (Scotland) Bill and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Bill make provision for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) within Scottish territorial waters and within offshore waters adjacent to Scotland respectively. These provisions are intended to enable Scottish Ministers to fulfil international commitments relating to the establishment of ecologically coherent networks of well-managed MPAs. The MPA network in Scottish waters will comprise existing MPAs (primarily European Marine Sites as well as those subject to other types of area-based management) and MPAs designated under the new legislation. Aim The main aims of this study are: 1. To depict Scotland’s seas in terms of their marine biodiversity, geodiversity and associated physical environment to support marine conservation work in territorial and offshore waters adjacent to Scotland including on Marine Protected Areas. 2. To develop a process of using large-scale features to support work on the selection of Marine Protected Areas in territorial and offshore waters adjacent to Scotland. Objectives The two principal objectives of this study are: 1. to prepare a succinct report that characterises the Scottish marine environment (biological, geological and geomorphological interests and associated physical environment from MWHS to the limit of the UKCS), at national and regional scales; and 2. to refine and subsequently test the role of large-scale features in identifying broad search areas for future MPAs and, in so doing, produce a process ‘tool’ to aid the application of Scottish MPA selection guidelines. Further information The characterisation reporting will illustrate the biological, geological and geomorphological diversity present within Scottish waters (out to the UKCS limit) with a view to highlighting key interests. Scotland’s marine environment has been split into distinct regions to aid the characterisation process. These are based on the Regional Seas developed by JNCC but also take account of the need to have boundaries which are meaningful to stakeholders. The national overview should describe a broad spectrum of marine geodiversity and biodiversity features (including mobile and far ranging species) emphasising known geographic variation across Scottish waters and the relative regional contributions to the national ‘picture’. The national/regional perspective should be written such that it can serve as a stand-alone document to inform marine nature conservation measures beyond MPA designation (e.g. within a wider marine planning context). The second project objective is to analyse (using GI-techniques) the potential role of large-scale features (e.g. sealochs, coastal islands groups) as broad search areas from within which suitable (finer scale) MPA search locations can subsequently be identified. The completion of the ‘characterisation’ reporting should underpin the analysis, but we envisage additional trialling being required to validate and / or refine the proposed approach. The trial should include working through the full application of the Stage 1 MPA selection guidelines within each of the four regions in Scottish territorial waters (0-12 nm) and within one broader Scottish MPA region (0 nm - UKCS limit), assuming the use of large-scale features as broad search areas. SNH/JNCC will provide the regional boundaries, the large-scale feature mapping units and the products of the DEFRA-led ‘datalayers’ project to the successful contractor in an ArcGIS format. The MPA selection guidelines will also be provided. Timing The contract will commence in November 2009 with final draft deliverables required in early June 2010.