Monitoring benthic biodiversity restoration in Lyme Bay marine protected area: Design, sampling and analysis
Long-standing concerns about the effects of scallop dredging and demersal trawling on high diversity mudstone reef and cobble habitats in Lyme Bay, southwest England, were addressed by the exclusion of bottom towed fishing gear from a 206km2 area in July 2008. A consortium led by Plymouth University Marine Institute was funded by the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to design and implement a study (initially funded for 3 years) to examine the effects of the closure on both nekton and epibenthos. This paper provides a detailed account of the methodology employed from survey design to data analysis to provide a protocol for future MPA monitoring programmes. Information on historical fishing effort, substrate distributions and current and previous closure boundaries was overlaid using GIS to locate suitable monitoring sites. Non-destructive and cost-effective techniques, including a towed high-definition video array and static baited video, were used to quantify changes in relative abundances of epibenthos and nekton over three years at sites previously fished but now closed to bottom towed fishing compared to both fished and un-fished reference sites. The monitoring programme as described provides a model for robust, cost-effective evaluation of the efficacy of policy instruments for feedback into the adaptive management cycle.
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