Benthos inventory

The action aims to gain comprehensive information about distribution and conservation status of the benthic habitats, which are protected on the EU scale as nature values and therefore are listed in the Annex I of the Habitats Directive. In the Eastern Baltic Sea such habitat types are sandbanks slightly covered by sea water all the time, mudflats and sand flats not covered by seawater at low tide, coastal lagoons, large shallow inlets and bays, and reefs. Presence of these valuable habitats is one of the conditions to include the site into the European Unions network of protected areas called Natura 2000.

So far knowledge about distribution of the benthic habitats in the Baltic States has been rather limited and also in already designated Natura 2000 sites there is lack of detailed information about the seafloor, including characterisation and mapping of the benthic communities.

The information collected by the inventory of benthic habitats will help to define precise borders of the Natura 2000 sites as well as provide data for the national Natura 2000 database and management plans of the sites.

The action has started with screening of existing information and seminars for harmonisation of the methodology for field inventories and sample treatment. Field inventories are carried out between May and September during the years 2006 and 2007. The predefined grid of sampling stations is surveyed by remote underwater video system, which allows large scale overview of benthic habitats distribution and selects sites for the more detailed scuba diving surveys. The underwater video system is hauled down from the ship to the bottom of the sea while the ship is drifting. The preliminary analysis of bottom features is carried out onboard during the video survey, while detailed examination is completed later in laboratory. Scuba diving is curried out by diving teams from small boats or research vessels and includes visual estimations, using underwater video and photo devices, as well as sampling – taking of phyto benthos and zoo benthos samples. Field inventories are followed by laboratory treatment of samples, analysis of results and reporting.
BEF Life Natura