This coming Friday, May 22, we celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity. Biological Diversity (Biodiversity) is the wide variety and variability of life on our planet, including all plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms. The resources this biodiversity provides, from food to medicine, are the pillars upon which humans have survived and built civilizations for the past millennia. As the seas and oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface, the marine environment holds an important part of our planet’s biodiversity resources. It also supports some of the most biodiverse ecosystems, from coral reefs to sea grass meadows. However, changes in land and sea use, over-exploitation, climate change, pollution and the spread of invasive non-native species through our global transportation network are all causing a decline in biodiversity, at rates unprecedented in human history. In the ocean, up to 33% of reef-forming coral species, a third of marine mammals, and many other species are threatened with extinction in the coming decades.
Fortunately, this alarming loss in biodiversity is not going unnoticed. Today, May 20, the European Union (EU) is announcing its new Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. As part of the European Green Deal, this strategy aims to preserve and restore the ecosystems and biodiversity on our planet. Also in previous decades, the EU has played an important role in protecting biodiversity. For example, the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), adopted in 2008, has implemented measures that aim to protect the European marine environment and the economic activities that depend on it.
A vital component of the MSFD is to assess the location and status of marine ecosystems across European regional seas. As the marine realm is so vast, habitat mapping, which predicts the occurrence of different seabed habitats based on an achievable number of seafloor observations and environmental parameters, is an important tool to accomplish this goal. By combining a large amount of data, EMODnet Seabed Habitats has created an impressive broad-scale habitat map called EUSeaMap, which covers all European marine regions. It was created by layering multiple maps of seabed substrate, biological zones and hydrodynamic energy levels as well as other hydrographic parameters. The map of the week features the latest EUSeaMap (from 2019) that shows the predicted distribution of the different Benthic Broad Habitat types defined by the MSFD throughout European waters.
The data in this map were provided by EMODnet Seabed Habitats.