Loch Eriboll fine scale priority marine feature and fish habitat spatial ecology (place holder).

  • Burns, Neil (PI)
  • Bailey, David M. (PI)
  • Hopkins, Charlotte R (PI)

Project Details


There is desire for greater protection of Scotland’s coastal marine biodiversity. Keen to prevent future damage to biodiversity, the Scottish Government has identified 11 Priority Marine Features (PMFs) requiring protection in Scottish waters. This is a contentious issue, and it is necessary to provide robust evidence to support appropriate protection measures. Ideally this evidence can identify and support protection for locations where it will be most effective. For example, in areas with high densities of PMFs. Loch Eriboll was identified by Nature Scot (previously Scottish Natural Heritage) as a possible site for protection site because of the PMFs found there.

Following our review of the marine survey data available for Loch Eriboll we have identified the need for a robust protocol to map seabed habitat, identify the presence and extent (or abundance) of PMFs and allow mobile species to be surveyed. While of good quality, much of the existing data is now out of date and the recent surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019 used a mixture of techniques making it unsuitable for robust statistical analysis. However, analysing the 2018 and 2019 surveys allowed us to identify the likely presence of 17 PMFs in Loch Eriboll. Of these 17 PMFs, 7 are present on the list of most vulnerable identified by Marine Scotland and 4 of these lack replication across the existing Marine Protected Area (MPA) network.

We propose to develop and conduct a robust survey of the marine environment of Loch Eriboll to produce habitat maps and allow the distributions of benthic species and habitats and mobile species to be modelled. The techniques we use will support modern statistical inference and modelling to develop our understanding of the marine environment in Loch Eriboll. These detailed maps will inform our understanding of fish distributions on the Scottish coast and will allow Loch Eriboll to form part of wider studies of the spatial ecology of fish. The initial outputs of the work could be used to inform understanding of PMF distributions, PMF review processes and ongoing reviews of the MPA network.

Effective start/end date3/05/2129/10/21


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