The Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 1994 which implement the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) and Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) in the UK include a number of provisions for the protection of European Marine Sites (marine candidate Special Areas of Conservation (cSAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs)), including the requirement for competent authorities to assess the effects of new and existing consents, permissions and authorisations to ensure that they are not having an adverse effect on the integrity of the site (Regulations 48 and 50). In England and Wales site characterisation, a process which involves the collation, integration and critical evaluation of existing site knowledge, is seen by the Environment Agency (EA) and the nature conservation bodies (English Nature – EN, and the Countryside Council for Wales – CCW) as an important step towards evaluating the effects of consented discharges and activities on the interest features of EMS, and is fundamental to the development of ecosystem-based management. An on-going project, led by the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (part of the Plymouth Marine Science Partnership) in collaboration with EA, EN and CCW, sets out to characterise the impacts and risks associated with water and sediment quality in relation to the integrity and interest features of selected European Marine Sites in southwest England and Wales. Using published information and unpublished data-sets from regulatory agencies, conservation bodies, and research institutes, evidence is compiled on the links between potentially harmful activities, environmental quality and resultant biological effects, and includes an evaluation of long-term change. An overview of results is presented here for one of the UK marine sites studied, The Fal and Helford candidate SAC, highlighting the threats to biota from point-source and diffuse pollutants, together with major gaps in our understanding. Some of the priorities for new research and better integrated monitoring to address nature conservation objectives (to maintain and restore the system) are discussed.
European Marine SitesHabitats DirectiveFal and Helford cSACwater quality