DEVelopment Of innovative Tools for understandig

marine biodiversity and assessing good

Environmental Status

DEVOTES Newsletter N.6

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Dear Colleague, 

Four years ago we started this journey to build scientific knowledge in support of the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Probably most of you remember that, at the kick-off meeting I finalized my talk saying that ‘The best is yet to come!’. After four years of travel, sometimes facing difficulties, but always exciting, I hope that you agree with me that we are now in the best of our hard work. This is grape harvesting time, and we are harvesting the fruits of the work done by each and everyone of us.

The most evident is the number of papers published: more than 150 up to now!, but also the tools that our project has produced as legacy to the future, especially the Nested Environmental status Assessment Tool (NEAT). We hope that this tool can become established in coming months and years as a basic piece of the marine assessment, not only in Europe but also in other latitudes. Another important DEVOTES product is the book in Frontiers in Marine Science. I’m happy because we have managed to become one of the projects with most open access papers, freely available for researchers, stakeholders and policy-makers worldwide. During our final conference in Brussels, we will present and discuss our findings.

I hope that, after the end of the project you can proudly say: ‘Once upon a time, I participated in the DEVOTES project, and really the best of my research happened then!

Thank you to all of you for these years!
Ángel Borja, DEVOTES Coordinator 


> Inside DEVOTES

DEVOTES Final Conference, Brussels (Belgium) 17-19 October 2016

Next week, from Monday 17th to Wednesday 19th October, the DEVOTES Final Conference will take place in Brussels.

The objective of the DEVOTES Final Conference is to bring together policy-makers, scientists and stakeholders from the marine field, to discuss how to bridge the gap between science and policy to enhance the health status of European seas.

During the conference, the project results will be presented, including inputs and key recommendations from the different tools available for effective marine monitoring, modelling and assessment. To fill the gaps between science and policy, a dedicated stakeholder meeting “Bridging Science and Marine Policy”, chaired by Matjaz Malgaj (Head of Unit for Marine Environment and Water Industry at the European Commission), with the presence of many stakeholders, has been embedded into the programme and will take place on 17th October. During this event, NEAT (Nested Environmental status Assessment Tool), the biodiversity assessment software developed in the context of DEVOTES for assessing the environmental status of marine areas according to the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) will be presented. 

The Conference will continue with two days of scientific discussions, aimed at sharing and spreading the developments of innovative tools and software for the assessment and management of marine waters and to support the implementation of the MSFD and the Regional Sea Conventions. Innovation in marine monitoring techniques, the selection of appropriate indicators to assess the status of the MSFD descriptors, how ecological models can support a better management of marine resources, and how to overcome the socio-economic barriers to achieving good environmental status will be highlighted.

Invited talks will be given by Ricardo Serrão Santos (Member of the European Parliament), Tundi Agardy, (Director of the Marine Ecosystem Services - MARES - Program at Forest Trends), and Paul Snelgrove (Director of the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network).

Click here to download the final programme
Official hashtag of the Conference: #DEVOTES4HealthyOceans
A conversation with...

...Melanie Austen, leader of WP2 Socio-economic implications for achieving GES

Melanie is Head of Science at PML leading the Sea and Society area of science. She has recently completed a 3 year term as the Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK's Marine Management Organisation. In DEVOTES, she leads WP2, and she is particularly involved in the development of understanding of how and whether GES will affect provision of ecosystem services and the value of their benefits.
Congratulations to Priscila and Sónia for their successful defences! You can read more about their experience as early career scientists by clicking on their pictures.

> DEVOTES Science News

NEAT new version released!

Before the summer break, the new version (1.2) of NEAT has been released with new functionality and even better stability, and an enhanced manual.
What's new?
  • Software tested under Windows 10 and running fine
  • Assessment aggregation to higher-level SAUs (this is now the default, while in version 1.1 the (invisible) default was no aggregation)
  • Display NEAT values aggregated to habitats (in version 1.1 only aggregation to ecosystem components was possible)
  • It is now possible to do sensitivity analyses of the results of an assessment (see section 5.5 in the manual)
  • Interface for the deployment of separate Add-ons providing specific functionality
  • Updates: Many bug fixes and improved stability
Click here to learn more about NEAT

Plankton diversity gradients

How does eutrophication affect plankton diversity?
By H. H. Jakobsen, J.L.S. Hansen and J. Carstensen (Aarhus University)
Spectacular phytoplankton blooms are one of the most visible signs of eutrophication, demonstrating a close linkage to ecosystem nutrient levels. However, the link between eutrophication and phytoplankton diversity is much less evident.  Denmark holds a comprehensive database of phytoplankton data collected through various monitoring programs that cover periods of changing nutrient load in Danish coastal waters. 
Due to differences in methodologies, diversity indices cannot be applied directly to the data and therefore considerable harmonization is necessary. For each sample, species richness was estimated from rarefaction curves, and subsequently species richness was matched to environmental gradients in space and time. In addition, data were also analysed for variations between people analysing the samples, and specific people with general tendencies to produce outliers were discarded. After this quality assurance, distinct seasonal, inter-annual and spatial patterns were observed.  We found that diversity was low during winter and spring and increased after the spring bloom and peaked during summer and fall (Fig. 1). Multidimensional analysis of phytoplankton species succession revealed distinct seasonal patterns (Fig. 2). With the most distinct community change occurring during the spring/summer transition (the clear water phase) that also marks the transition from nutrient replete to nutrient deplete conditions. This seasonal pattern in nutrients was inversely related to the overall species richness and chlorophyll a values.
Further analysis of the seasonal succession and community diversification will focus on disentangling effects of anthropogenic nutrient load from the natural estuarine and climatic gradients covered by the data. The following hypothesis will be further explored: 1) persistent nutrient replete conditions favor low species diversity; whereas 2) seasonal nutrient depletion combined with grazers top-down control will stimulate high diversity during summer. 
Figure 1 Seasonal dynamic in rarefaction harmonized number of species by month over a full season (full bullets). Data are means calculated from the period 2010 -2015. Monthly means in total nitrogen (blue line) for the same period is shown for comparison. 
Figure 2 Non-metric MDS showing the community diversification cycle of square-root transformed species abundance data of phytoplankton collected at Aalborg Bay (western Kattegat, DK) colours indicate sampling months during 2010-2015. Bubble size show relative species richness (Margalefs richness index).

> DEVOTES Latest publications

We are pleased to announce the publication of the first edition of the DEVOTES Ebook entitled “Bridging the Gap Between Policy and Science in Assessing the Health Status of Marine Ecosystems”, including contributions about marine monitoring techniques and the lessons learnt during these four years of intense collaborations.

The book is available for free at the link

Frontiers publication summarizing the developments and revision on indicators for marine biodiversity

by A.-S. Heiskanen

A new paper has been accepted summarizing the development new indicators in DEVOTES WP3: 
These indicators were presented first in Deliverable 3.3. in January 2016, and now this paper provides a summary of the development of new marine biodiversity indicators and refinement of existing ones in order to address some of the observed gaps in the context of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The Directive requires assessment of the biodiversity status on the level of species, habitats, and ecosystems including genetic diversity and the role of biodiversity in food web functioning and structure. Promising new indicators are available addressing genetic diversity of microbial and benthic communities. Novel indicators to assess biodiversity and food webs associated with habitats formed by keystone species (such as macroalgae) as well as to map benthic habitats (such as biogenic reefs) using high resolution habitat characterization have been developed. DEVOTES also made advances on refining some indicators for detecting impacts of non-native invasive species and assessing the structure and functioning of marine food-webs. The latter are based on indicators showing the effects of fishing on trophic level and size distribution of fish and elasmobranch communities well as phytoplankton and zooplankton community structure as food web indicators. New and refined indicators were scored based on eight quality criteria (Figure) enabling their ranking with respect of applicability and usefulness for MSFD assessment purposes. Moreover, their applicability for various EU and global biodiversity assessments and the need for further development of new indicators and refinement of the existing ones was discussed in the paper.
Ranking the indicators developed and refined in DEVOTES (Names of the indicators are as in Berg et al., 2016). Indicator quality scores are based on the framework to test and evaluate indicator quality (Queirós et al., 2016). Each indicator was evaluated based on eight quality criteria: 1) Scientific basis; 2) Ecosystem relevance; 3) Responsiveness to pressures; 4) Possibility to set targets; 5) Early warning capacity; 6) Concreteness; 7) Cost-Efficiency; 8) Existing and on-going data. For each indicator the quality criteria were evaluated and scored using three evaluation scores: 1= criteria is fully met ; 0,5= criteria is partially met; and 0=  criteria is not met. The scoring principles for each indicator and criteria are described in detail by Berg et al. (2016).
Click here to read the full publication

Two Frontiers publications from WP1

by C. Smith
Two new scientific articles have successfully been published this summer based on the   DEVOTES Task 1.1 team deliverable report on Conceptual Models for marine ecosystem problem solving.  A full scientific review by Patricio et al. (2016) of the use of the Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) framework and its derivatives looked at its evolution over the past 20 years cumulating in the latest version, DAPSI(W)R(M) from WP1 leader Prof. Mike Elliot. The DPSIR framework is increasingly being used to solve marine problems, particularly within Europe where an ecosystem-based approach to management is becoming more widespread. The paper also highlights some of the concept’s weaknesses centred on the variable interpretation of the DPSIR components, particularly between natural and social scientists, and the oversimplification of environmental problems. These latter two points have been picked up by the second paper by Smith et al. (2016), where the problem solving required for the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive is put into the context of DPSIR. The DPSIR framework can be adapted to deal with complex systems and can be used as a road map to highlight the links between activities, ecosystem effects and management responses. This paper goes on to highlight the considerations required in assessment of effects and the kind of assessment tools currently available to follow through with the analyses. The paper shows that complex systems can be taken into account using DPSIR, including our real-world ecosystems affected by multiple pressures or multiple mechanisms of a single pressure.

- Patrício J., Elliott M., Mazik K., Papadopoulou N., Smith C. 2016. DPSIR - two decades of trying to develop a unifying framework for marine environmental management? Frontiers in Marine Science, 3(177) Doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00177
- Smith, C.J., Papadopoulou, K-N., Barnard S., Mazik K., Elliott M., Patrício J., Solaun O., Little S., Bhatia, N., Borja, A. 2016. Managing the Marine Environment, Conceptual Models and Assessment Considerations for the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Frontiers in Marine Science. 3(144) 19 pp. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00144
From DPSIR (a) to DAPSI(W)R(M) (b) – 20 years of conceptual framework evolution (c)
The complexity of single pressure mechanisms acting at different ecosystem levels in relation to MSFD Descriptors 1 ,2, 4 and 6.

A regional algorithm for separating light absorption by chlorophyll-a and coloured detrital matter in the Black Sea, using 480–560 nm bands from ocean colour scanners

by V. Suslin and T. Churilova 
The aim of this study is to modify the regional algorithm for Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Medium-spectral Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) bands using newly available data of seasonal and spatial variability of light absorption by all optically active components in the Black Sea, and to obtain a merged product based on data retrieved from all the colour scanners that have operated since September 1997. Comparison of chlorophyll-a concentration (chl-a) simulated by the standard National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) algorithm with in situ chl-a measurements showed that the NASA algorithm provided incorrect chl-a assessment of Black Sea shelf and deep-sea waters during spring‒summer. Originally the standard NASA algorithm could be applied if there was a high correlation between light absorption by phytoplankton (aph) and that by coloured dissolved and suspended organic matter (aCDM), which is not the case in the Black Sea. Consequently, development of the correct regional chl-a algorithm requires splitting of light absorption into aph and aCDM. This issue has been resolved by the proposed regional algorithm developed for the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) using remote-sensing reflectance in three (as minimum) spectral bands from 480 to 560 nm. Operation of the SeaWiFS and MERIS colour scanners ceased in December 2010 and April 2012, respectively, while the MODIS scanner is still working on the Terra and Aqua satellites. In this research, level 2 data (products of standard atmosphere correction at three bands filtered by masks/flags) of SeaWiFS, MODIS (on Terra and Aqua satellites), and MERIS scanners were retrieved for their mission lifetime. The regional algorithm was validated independently for each scanner, based on the adequacy of the algorithm-derived chl-a and aCDM to in situ-measured data for the same day. The results suggest a satisfactory accuracy of the modified regional algorithm (Figure 1).
The first versions of the chl-a and aCDM merge products were obtained based on integrated data from the SeaWiFS, MERIS, and MODIS-Aqua/Terra sensors. Examples of two-week averaged maps of the chl-a and aCDM merge products are given in Figure 2.

Suslin V., Churilova T. A regional algorithm for separating light absorption by chlorophyll-a and coloured detrital matter in the Black Sea, using 480–560 nm bands from ocean colour scanners // INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF REMOTE SENSING, 2016, VOL. 37, NO. 18, 4380–4400
Figure 1 Results of comparison of chl-a, (a), and aCDM, (b), in-situ measurements performed on the same day with the model simulations by the regional algorithm   based on the colour scanner MODIS-Aqua data. N is a number of available measurements. R2 is a coefficient of determination. PV67 – 70, 73 and VP05 are abbreviations of the field campaigns on the research vessels “Professor Vodyanitsky” and “Vladimir Parshin”, respectively.
Figure 2 The merge-products of chl-a (mg m-3), (a)-(d), and aCDM(490) (m-1), (e)-(h), merge-products for four seasons: the first half of January 2007, (a, e), the second half of April 2003, (b, f), the first half of June 2003, (c, g), and the second half of October 2002, (d, h).

Is existing legislation fit-for-purpose to achieve Good Environmental Status in European seas?

by S. Boyes
Article 13 of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires Member States to develop a Programme of Measures (PoM) by 2015, to meet the objective of Good Environmental Status (GES) for their waters by 2020. Article 13 lists EU directives and policies which Member States are encouraged to integrate, or whose existing measures should be taken into account of, when developing their PoM. Exploring key maritime-related policies, a new paper by DEVOTES researchers examines how Member States have relied on and will integrate existing legislation and policies to implement their PoM and the potential opportunities and difficulties associated with this.
The requirements to meet any EU directive, and particularly the MSFD, is often a complex, time and resource-consuming process. Although the aims and current standards of existing directives (e.g. CFP, WFD, Natura 2000) should be a starting point for GES, barriers do exist. The overreliance and ‘shoehorning’ of measures provided by existing legislation may be to the detriment of environmental protection and achieving GES when considering their differing geographical extents (Fig 1), policy timelines, competencies and existing measures. The paper concludes that creating new measures and increasing the coordination across the existing legislative instruments and between competent authorities will be central to fully implementing the MSFD and to avoid anomalies and gaps. It is acknowledged that extending the existing monitoring and in some cases creating new measures to cover all marine waters and encompassing ecosystems will definitely be a challenge for EU Member States.

Boyes, S.J., Elliott, M., Murillas-Maza, A., Papadopoulou, N. & Uyarra, M.C. (2016). Is existing legislation fit-for-purpose to achieve Good Environmental Status in European seas? Marine Pollution Bulletin, 111 (1-2): 18-32.
Geographical scope and competencies of European legislation upon which measures the MSFD relies.
Click here and discover all the DEVOTES papers published so far!

> Outside DEVOTES: Updates from our Network


by N. Papadopoulou

MERCES, a new H2020 project coordinated by Prof. Roberto Danovaro, UNIVPM, is focused on the restoration of different degraded marine habitats.
MERCES at a glance: 28 partners, Start date 1 June 2016, Duration 48 months, Budget 6.651.118,20 euro
Main goals:
1) assessing the potential of different technologies and approaches;
2) quantifying the returns in regards of ecosystem services and their socio-economic impacts;
3) defining the legal-policy and governance frameworks needed to optimize the effectiveness of the different restoration approaches.

Specific aims include: a) improving existing, and developing new, restoration actions of degraded marine habitats; b) increasing the adaptation of EU degraded marine habitats to global change; c) enhancing marine ecosystem resilience and services; d) conducting cost-benefit analyses for marine restoration measures; e) creating new industrial targets and opportunities.
Video presentation of MERCES
WP1 – European Marine habitats, degradation and restoration 

WP1 will produce a census of European marine habitats, their degradation status and restoration potential, and will provide a synthesis of previous experiences of marine restoration.
Specific objectives of WP1 include:
1) reviewing information concerning: state of knowledge of European habitat mapping and inventory of key and degraded habitats;
2) state of knowledge of habitat pressures and restoration potential;
3) review habitat restoration technologies, tools and best practices;
4) review the literature related to the economics of marine and coastal ecosystem service restoration. 
WP1 will produce an inventory of EU degraded marine habitats.

Co-leaders: Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (Nadia Papadopoulou, and National University of Ireland Galway (Anthony Grehan,
Contact us!  Send us your papers & reports.
For more information please visit

WATERS Final Report

by J. Carstensen

The Final Meeting of Waters (Waterbody Assessment Tools for Ecological Reference conditions and status in Sweden has been held on 11th and 12th October 2016. 
WATERS has developed better indicators and methods for classification and references in Swedish lakes, streams and coastal waters. This provides a valuable basis for a new generation of biological assessment criteria to be defined by the authorities. WATERS has also developed general methods for assessing and reducing uncertainty in classification of ecological status, as well as harmonised and transparent methods for integrated assessment. In combination, these results are expected to improve and simplify future status assessments according to the Water Framework Directive. Download WATERS Final Report for more information about the WATERS programme.
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The sole responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the authors. The information on this newsletter does not necessarily represent the view of the European Commission (EC). This newsletter reflects the views only of the DEVOTES partnership and cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.