Collating and standardising habitat maps for north-west Europe

One of the first tasks for the MESH project was to compile an inventory of the information available form existing seabed habitat mapping studies, and produce a metadata catalogue describing these studies.
Screenshot of the MESH WebGIS showing a record from the metadata catalogue.
Such studies ranged from maps covering national or regional seas such as those maps of seabed sediments produced by national geological agencies, to more detailed local studies such as maps of marine protected areas. Most of these existing studies show the seabed habitats using a classification system appropriate to the study. Bringing together these maps into a single results in a patchwork of different habitat classifications where the same habitat in separate maps may be described using different terms.
Habitat Map © MESH
Habitat map, France
(© JNCC 2008)
In the first phase, the MESH project selected a range of these studies and work out the procedures for harmonising their habitat categories to follow European habitat classification schemes (the European Environment Agency's EUNIS system and the EC Habitats Directive types), to provide the first consistent seabed habitat maps for north-west Europe. Once these procedures were shown to work, they were repeated for other studies to improve the coverage of habitat maps within the MESH study area. Existing studies were of variable quality and, more importantly, did not cover the entire study area. Habitat models were developed to predict the distribution of habitats in unsampled areas from the more widely available geophysical and hydrographic data. The final maps are presented with a quality rating so that end-users can determine their adequacy for their decision-making, and future survey effort can be strategically directed to areas with relatively little existing coverage or available maps have low quality.

Outputs and Products

The key products from Generating Maps were:
Maps in the MESH webGIS
Additional outputs, for example the MESH Data Exchange Formats, can be found on the MESH website.