The concept of a marine landscapes classification of the sea
and seabed was developed with the aim of enabling action to be
taken to benefit nature conservation in circumstances where marine
biological data are limited. The classification is based on the
assumption that geophysical and hydrographical information (for
which there is generally better broad-scale coverage than
biological information) can be used in lieu of biological
information to classify medium scale marine habitats and to set
marine nature conservation priorities.
Three main groups of marine landscapes were identified for the
Irish Sea. These are:
- Coastal (physiographic) marine landscapes such as rias and
estuaries where the seabed and water body are closely interlinked.
In this group, both the seabed and the overlying water are included
within the marine landscape;
- Seabed marine landscapes which occur away from the coast, i.e.
the seabed of open sea areas. In this group, the marine landscapes
comprise the seabed and water at the substrate/water
- Water column marine landscapes of open sea areas, such
as mixed and stratified water bodies and frontal systems. In this
group, the marine landscapes comprise the water column above the
In total, 18 coastal and seabed marine
landscape types were identified for the Irish Sea. These are listed
in table 3.1 of the report linked below, which also summarises the
distinguishing geophysical and hydrographical characteristics of
each type. The distribution of these 18 types is shown in the
The Pilot project has demonstrated that the identification and
mapping of a comprehensive series of marine landscape types using
geophysical and hydrographical data is fully practicable at the
Regional Sea scale. The classification provides a description of
the sea which is broadly equivalent to the countryside map scale on
land. It gives an overview of the main physiographic and ecosystem
types in the marine environment. This is likely to be invaluable
for strategic planning, spatial planning policy development and
management decision making for the sea.
In summary the Pilot project recommends that the marine
landscape approach should be adopted as a key element for marine
nature conservation and utilised in the spatial planning and the
management of the marine environment. A list of
internationally-agreed marine landscapes for the North-East
Atlantic should be developed as far as possible, in collaboration
with other relevant countries.
See Pilot project main report ( Vincent et al, 2004
)and marine landscapes report
for ( Golding et al, 2004
) details of the
rational, methodology, biological characterisation of each
landscape type and references.