Determining whether change to a feature within a Marine Protected Area (MPA) has occurred from natural variation or has arisen from anthropogenic impacts, such as from towed mobile gear, is a question that is particularly prudent during the current phase of implementing management measures for UK MPAs. Management decisions need to be based on sound evidence and understanding and meet the conservation objective caveat “subject to natural change/processes”.
The aims of this project are to, (i) review and recommend metrics and data analysis methods to test for the effects of natural disturbance in mobile sedimentary habitats (e.g. sandbanks) in the UK at small, local scales (such as within MPAs) and (ii) assess these effects with respect to exposure to fishing activity in a number of case study sites in an attempt to outline which changes are likely to be natural, and which may be a result of fishing activity, or a combination of both. The outcomes of this assessment will then subsequently be used to support the development of more effective evidence-based management measures for fishing activities within UK MPAs.