Marine Vulnerability Assessments


Vulnerability Assessments

A Vulnerability Assessment is an assessment of possible impacts on marine biodiversity from human activities. Different human activities exert a variety of pressures and these pressures, in turn, have different levels of impacts on habitats and species. To carry out a Vulnerability Assessment we must consider where activities occur within the marine environment and what habitats and species use that space. Using this information we can find out the overlapping area of the activity with the different habitats and species in the marine environment, we call this the ‘exposure’. Then we can ascertain how sensitive each marine habitat and species is to the activity in question, through our sensitivity assessments. When we combine the exposure of the environment, with the sensitivity of the environment then we have the likelihood of impact, we call this vulnerability.


This can be used in planning to reduce the risks to the marine environment; advice can then be tailored to the needs of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), industries or development projects, including:


  • Assessing the status (condition) of marine habitats for legislative reporting where in-the-field data has not yet been collected;
  • Providing evidence for the development of MPA conservation objectives (i.e. high level statements of ecological aims for the MPA);
  • Providing advice to industry on the likely impacts of their activities on marine biodiversity, particularly within MPAs;
  • Jointly with Germany developing an indicator of physical damage for MSFD purposes under OSPAR (Oslo-Paris Convention) coordination;
  • Assigning a prioritisation to the monitoring of MPAs following a risk-based approach;