A significant proportion of our sea areas are strongly impacted by a multitude of human activities, and cumulative effects of various stressors on coastal and marine ecosystems is a pressing problem. The research project CARAMBHA runs between 2020-2022 and will develop methodologies for Marine Strategy Framework Directive status assessments on seafloor integrity.
The seafloor is subject to physical pressures from many activities such as constructions, dredging, marine traffic and trawling, which may co-occur with each other and with e.g climate change and eutrophication. Seabed status is one of 11 so called descriptors used to determine environmental status in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. According to the MSFD, seafloor integrity status (D6) is to be assessed as proportion of seafloor per broad habitat type adversely affected by human-induced pressures. Currently, compiled information and data is lacking for the Swedish assessment.
The CARAMBHA project will research innovative ways to assess the criteria for seafloor integrity in a necessary spatial context, integrating cumulative impact assessments with spatial indicators of benthic ecosystem function. We will compile and evaluate existing biological, environmental and pressure data, quantify activities and pressures leading to habitat loss in Swedish waters, and estimate the proportion of lost habitat in coastal and offshore areas. We will also conduct stratified sampling of benthic flora and fauna and analyse impacts of anthropogenic pressures on the condition of habitats and ecosystem functions. Finally, we will assess seafloor integrity status for the broad habitat types through comprehensive testing of aggregation principles and scales and suggest thresholds for good environmental status in Swedish marine waters.
The project will fill several important gaps in current Swedish marine management, as the latest assessment of MSFD D6 was incomplete. In order to develop the Swedish assessment and make it legally compliant, research is needed to compile new data and propose a suitable assessment scheme. CARAMBHA is a collaboration between AquaBiota Water Research, Hafok AB, Geological Survey of Sweden, Stockholm University and Finnish Environment Institute and has a budget of 5 million SEK. The project is funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency´s Research Grant in collaboration with the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management within the call” Forskning om kumulativa effekter på miljön”.