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Nature News/Spring 2019

Viewing the BIG PICTURE – from the seabed Assessing the condition of biological communities on the seabed – using photography or video – is a key approach for national seabed monitoring programmes. To discuss approaches to the collection and analysis of video and still photography, also known as benthic imagery, JNCC brought together organisations from the UK’s marine monitoring community. Our BIG PICTURE workshop enabled experts to grapple with a broad range of issues over three days, seeking collaborative solutions and opportunities. Rocky habitats and their biological communities form natural reefs, harbouring a wide variety of fantastic marine organisms such as cup corals, anemones, sponges, starfish and feather stars. Reef habitats are common across the UK and, when healthy, will attract many larger marine animals such as crabs, ground fish and seals. However, effective analysis of benthic imagery can be limited by a range of issues – from difficult survey conditions when the imagery is collected, to inconsistencies in analysis methods and the interpretation of the resulting scientific data. During the workshop these issues were explored by the multidisciplinary group of 51 participants, who represented 29 organisations spanning government bodies, research institutes, universities and environmental consultancies. The group also considered how cutting-edge technological developments in autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and machine learning could be better utilised in monitoring programmes.

Using benthic imagery of these communities, in national seabed monitoring programmes, forms part of our commitment to provide high-quality evidence and advice on the UK’s network of Marine Protected Areas

Following an informative and productive workshop it was agreed that an action plan would be developed to take the work forward. JNCC will lead this work, which will be delivered by a small group of specialists with representation from across the stakeholder group. A forum will be established to improve knowledge transfer, sharing of resources and greater collaboration between the stakeholders. The workshop closed on a very positive note, highlighting the benefits of working together to develop shared solutions and identifying opportunities to meet the emerging challenges of marine seabed monitoring.

Participants at The Big Picture workshop © JNCC

Henk van Rein Marine Monitoring & Evidence Manager

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JNCC's Nature News Spring 2019 edition