About the Project
The HABMAP project has produced working
habitat maps of the seabed of the southern Irish Sea using novel
predictive modelling techniques.
HABMAP also undertook some survey work in four areas of the
southern Irish Sea (Arklow Bank, Celtic Deep, St Georges Channel
and Caernarfon Bay). For more information see the Cruises
The seabed of the Southern Irish Sea contains a diverse range of
habitats and species, from algae dominated rocky reefs to deep
muddy areas inhabited by burrowing animals. To varying degrees all
of these habitats can be utilised by mankind, through activities
such as fishing, aggregate extraction and development of renewable
energy resources offshore. In addition, some are priority habitats
or contain listed species under EC and international
Attempts to manage the seabed are currently hampered by our
relative lack of knowledge and lack of spatial data in the form of
seabed maps, and the Irish Sea has been recognised as a priority in
this regard. The need for habitat mapping has been identified by
several organisations throughout Wales, Ireland and Europe (e.g.
OSPAR, ICES, European Environment Agency) and habitat maps will be
crucial in implementing a variety of different pieces of marine
legislation including the Water Framework Directive, Habitats
Directive and Common Fisheries Policy.
The initial three-year project synthesised existing information
relating to seabed habitats for the southern Irish Sea.
Relationships between the physical data and the biological data
were analysed to develop a model to interpolate biological data to
produce biotope maps. The final phase of the project involved
validating this model.
The follow-up project extended the mapping to cover all of Welsh
The habitat maps will be used by coastal managers (conservation
and fisheries), but also aim to disseminate the results to a wider
audience. The following are a few practical examples of the ways in
which the project outputs might be used:
- Mapping the extent and distribution of habitats of conservation
importance (e.g. Biodiversity Action Plan habitats, EU Habitats
Directive Annex I habitats) and to fulfil obligations under EC
Directives 92/43/EEC, 79/409/EEC and 2001/60/EEC and other
international programmes (e.g. ICES, OSPAR).
- Strategic planning. Habitat maps effectively create a resource
inventory of the seabed. The biological information associated with
the maps could contribute to the strategic planning of activities
such as aggregate extraction, by identifying potentially
sensitive or potentially exploitable areas of the seabed.
- Decision making for offshore developments (e.g. offshore wind
farms), biotope maps would help put site-specific survey data into
context, i.e. to know if an area with biotope x is important for
conservation, we need to know how much more of biotope x is out
- Sensitivity mapping - i.e. mapping areas that are particularly
sensitive to different impacts - either as contingency (e.g. oil
spills) or for strategic planning (e.g. planning possible aggregate
- Mapping essential fish habitat (i.e. habitat that commercially
and recreationally important fish rely on for all or part of their
life cycle) and quantifying the amounts of food available to
This project has built on previous INTERREG work, such as the
SWISS project and other projects, such as BIOMAR and the Irish Sea
Pilot project. The data from these projects was utilised and
combined with physical data to produce habitat maps. The project
also linked with other current or proposed INTERREG projects, such
as the NW Europe benthic mapping project (MESH).
If you would like a hard copy of the original HABMAP project
reports (BIOMOR 5a and 5b), or a project DVD containing survey data
and images, please contact Andy Mackie at the National Museum Wales