One of the world’s longest-running marine biological time-series at risk.

One of the world’s longest-running marine biological time-series at risk.

As many of you know, the MBA maintains some of the world’s longest-running marine biological time-series. The MBA monitoring sites also contribute to the Western Channel Observatory, which is run in coordination with Plymouth Marine Laboratory who also maintain high-quality scientific time series (including a buoy – see The Plymouth time-series have also been a core part of European reference sites such as through BIOMARE and EMBOS.

A UK government agency needs to recommend somewhere to dump dredge spoil and has recommended a site overlapping with L4 i.e. exactly where many of our time-series are located.

They claim from p127 onwards that there will be no impact but we are providing very clear evidence that there science is fundamentally flawed.

The MBA and PML are currently replying to the consultation document and objecting in the strongest terms.

MBA long-term science monitoring. Since the opening of its Laboratory in Plymouth in the late 19th century the MBA has undertaken long-term research that monitors natural changes in the physical marine environment and to record the abundance, distributions and population biology of diverse organisms, from phytoplankton to sharks. The purpose of its long-term science monitoring is to provide an environmental baseline for predicting complex physical and ecological responses to natural local, regional and global environmental change. Without multi-decadal data sets of physical and biological measurements it is impossible to undertand how ecosystems like the western English Channel will respond to natural change. To this end, the ‘E’ and ‘L’ Stations for sustained scientific sampling were set up by the MBA in 1902 when the MBA undertook the English share of the international investigations on behalf of the UK following the formation of the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) (Southward et al. 2005). Scientific monitoring at the Stations L4, L5 and E1 including their surrounding sampling areas off Plymouth have been funded by the UK government  and departments since 1902, support which continues to the present day as the Western Channel Observatory (WCO).

The WCO, funded by the UK Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) National Capability, is a partnership between the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) and the MBA. Station L4 (50 15’N, 4 13.2’W; 50 m depth) which is situated 13 km off Plymouth, is a monitoring area of particularly intensive (weekly) scientific observational activity. The WCO is a recognised reference site nationally and internationally for monitoring natural fluctuations in the marine environment and biodiversity that is needed to assess changes in the natural climate system. The WCO long-term marine data provides results to UK departments and agencies, including NERC, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCB) such as Natural England. Data are used to inform policy deliverables under legislation such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive Part 2 Regulations. WCO data is also utilised within Europe as part of EMBOS (European Marine Biological Observatories).

Dr Matthew Frost Mem.MBA
Deputy Director (Policy and Knowledge Exchange) The Marine Biological Association


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