Report 519
An independent quality assurance of evidence assessments undertaken by JNCC for possible Tranche 2 rMCZs
(2014)
Asa Strong, J., Burdon, D. & Elliott, M.
The overall aim of this project was for an independent scientist to undertake a quality assurance audit of how the biophysical evidence underpinning each feature gave rise to the JNCC’s confidence assessments, based on the approaches outlined in Protocol E and the associated guidance document.
 

Introduction


To support the UK Government’s designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is responsible for assessing the evidence underpinning offshore MCZ features of interest (i.e. species of conservation importance, habitats of conservation importance, broad-scale habitats and geological/geomorphological features).
 
At the request of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), JNCC and Natural England produced Technical Protocol E and accompanying guidance, which set out the broad principles and approach for assessing the evidence underpinning features within MCZs and recommended MCZs (rMCZ). The assessment considers evidence from multiple sources and is used to determine the confidence in the evidence supporting the presence and spatial extent of features.
 
In response to recent developments in JNCC’s policy relating to the Quality Assurance (QA) of evidence, JNCC has introduced a further QA step into its MCZ work by commissioning an independent audit of the application of Protocol E to features in offshore rMCZ. The Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies (IECS, University of Hull) was commissioned by JNCC to undertake this independent audit of the application of Protocol E. Three rMCZs were selected independently by IECS staff for analysis. These sites contained examples for all four feature types (including a geological/geomorphology feature).
 
Several features were subject to expert judgement for the final confidence assessment. It was apparent that Protocol E had been rigorously and consistently applied to all features and between rMCZs. Where expert judgement had been applied, it resulted in a more accurate assessment of confidence and was firmly in the spirit of Protocol E. Although the reasoning for the use of expert judgement was clearly stated during the audit, it was found that supporting narratives and annotation attached to the evidence list often lacked sufficient detail to convey this as a stand-alone description.
 
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ISSN 0963-8901
 
Please cite as: Asa Strong, J., Burdon, D. & Elliott, M., (2014), An independent quality assurance of evidence assessments undertaken by JNCC for possible Tranche 2 rMCZs, JNCC Report 519, ISSN 0963-8901