Comparison of the MSFD biodiversity indicators of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom
Zanten, W. van
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Various anthropogenic pressures have negative effects on marine ecosystems (OSPAR 2010). To protect European marine ecosystems, the European Commission developed the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) under which Member States should cooperate as much as possible. In the MSFD, 11 descriptors are set out. Here fore, each Member State was obliged to develop indicators to measure the state and progress of all 11 descriptors (European Commission 2008). However, the Member States struggle with developing indicators. Because all Member States individually developed their indicators, this led to the proposal of various indicators for identical descriptors. The requested cooperation therefore becomes difficult and also comparing data between countries becomes impossible. Furthermore, many Member States did not propose all requested indicators. Already at first glance, the proposed indicators for descriptor 1 biodiversity, shows large differences, especially between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The aim of this study is to assess the differences in the MSFD biodiversity indicators of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Subsequently, it is my aim to analyse what policy reasons and/or differences in the decision making process caused discrepancies between the nations. By assessing the differences in biodiversity indicators and by revealing the outline of the decision making process is determined what caused the differences in indicators of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. I analysed the indicators for the biodiversity descriptor of the marine strategies of both nations. Hereby the relevance of the proposed indicators is determined as well. Interviews with experts from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are also conducted to clarify the decision making process. The results reveal large gaps in the indicator lists and many indicators are found irrelevant, mainly mammals based indicators. The Netherlands seems to have a policy based decision making process which results in preference for already in use indicators with no further indicator development. Their proposed indicators also are very unspecific. The United Kingdom is more science based. In their strategy, many indicators are mentioned, however they are often found irrelevant. I expect that this research may be an eye opener for both scientists and policy makers who work on this topic. On policy level, I recommend policy makers to adopt the United Kingdom decision making process. This process then should be supplemented with a critical team of experts who will look into the indicator relevance and also into the applicability of the indicators. Furthermore, science and policy need to work together in order to prevent excess research and to make sure relevant indicators are chosen. I strongly recommend to, together with diverse experts with backgrounds in different topics, discuss the proposed indicators and do determine which are relevant and which are not.