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Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope MPA

Updated conservation advice was produced for the Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope Nature Conservation MPA in March 2018.  Further information is available in the Conservation Advice section below

Status: Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (Nature Conservation MPA)

Located to the north-west of Scotland, the Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope MPA follows the descent of the seabed from the Hebridean continental shelf at a depth of 200 m into the deep-sea of the Rockall Trough.

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Site

The Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope MPA is located to the north-west of Scotland and follows the descent of the seabed from the Hebridean continental shelf at a depth of 200 m into the deep-sea of the Rockall Trough. The Slide is a geological submarine landslide, named after the famous Scottish geologist, Sir Archibald Geikie.

Map displaying the Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.

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Legislation

Legislation behind the designation: Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009)

 

Protected features

Features Features Type
Burrowed mud (sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities) Habitat
Offshore subtidal sands and gravels Habitat
Offshore deep-sea muds Habitat
Continental slope Large scale feature
Slide deposit and slide scars representative of the Geikie Slide Key Geodiversity Area Geomorphological feature

Specific information on the conservation objectives relating to this site is provided in the Conservation Advice section.

The acquisition of new data may result in updates to our knowledge on feature presence and extent within this site. The most up-to-date information is reflected on the map at the top of the section and in JNCC's MPA mapper, with the evidence underpinning available in the Evidence section.

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Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of the Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section.

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Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.  This Site Information Centre is the most up-to-date source of information for this MPA, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced. Information about the Nature Conservation MPA site selection process is available on the JNCC Nature Conservation MPA webpages.

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Summary

Last updated: June 2017

Information for this site summary was adapted from the Site Summary Document and incorporates any further information gathered since this document was produced. Please refer to this document in the Relevant Documentation section for further details and information sources. 

 

Site overview

Located to the north-west of Scotland, the Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope MPA follows the descent of seabed from a depth of 200 m on the Hebridean continental shelf into the deep-sea of the Rockall Trough. Habitats within the MPA vary down the slope with the descent into deeper, calmer water. The purpose of the MPA is to represent variation in sandy, muddy and gravelly habitat types, and the animal communities they support, with depth. The Geikie Slide is a submarine landslide of geological importance, named after the famous Scottish geologist, Sir Archibald Geikie. The Hebridean continental slope is believed to be significant for the health of Scotland’s seas because of the way it influences the movement of water currents which bring a plentiful supply of food to the area.

Habitats within the MPA vary down the slope with the descent into deeper water. The sand and gravel habitat on the continental shelf continues down the slope changing to mud as the depth increases. The mud is characterised by the burrows formed by animals such as mud shrimp and deep-sea crabs. Along the bottom of the slope, a range of animals are present that tolerate the environmental conditions of the deep-sea. A diverse range of sea life can be found living in and on the mud, including sea urchins, sea spiders, and deep-sea worms. The area is also a breeding ground for commercially important fish such as blue ling. The Hebridean slope more broadly is thought to have functional significance to the health and biodiversity of Scotland’s seas in the way that it serves to increase water-column mixing and subsequently a rise in levels of biological productivity. Large-scale slides such as the Geikie Slide are considered characteristic geodiversity features along the Scottish continental slope.

Biotope analysis characterised the biological diversity on the Hebridean slope based on archive stills data from 1988–1998. The findings indicate five distinct biological zones with associated communities that change with depth on the slope, and the MPA represent examples of each:

  • Outer shelf and shelf break zone (135–227 m): characterised by coarse sediments ranging from strongly rippled sand and gravel plains to dense fields of cobbles and small boulders. Visible fauna is sparse in this zone and predominantly comprises echinoderms such as the pencil urchin Cidaris cidaris and sea stars.
  • Upper slope zone (279–470 m): generally characterised by coarser sediments with sand and gravel patches and predominantly includes echinoderms as visible fauna. 
  • Ophiocten gracialis zone (600–1,020 m): a biological zone dominated by large numbers of the small brittlestar Ophiocten gracialis on fine sandy, muddy sand or sandy mud, with some areas of gravel or cobbles.
  • Xenophyophore zone (1,088–1,180 m): a biological zone characterised by the Xenophyophore Syringammina fragilissima in rippled muddy sand or sandy mud.
  • Decapod burrowing zone (1,293–1,595 m): a biological zone characterised by the burrows of large decapods such as Munida tenuimania in fine muds.

Further detail on the evidence for this Nature Conservation MPA can be found in the Evidence section.

Site location:  Co-ordinates for this Nature Conservation MPA can be found in the Designation Order listed in the Relevant Documentation section.

Site area:  2,215 km2.

Site depth range:  113 m below sea-level on the edge of the Hebridean continental shelf, down to 1,757 m at the base of the Rockall Trough. 

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Scottish Continental Shelf.

Site boundary description: The MPA boundary captures the full range of sedimentary communities as they change with depth down the Hebridean continental slope in this region. The site also encompasses the geological features representative of the Geikie Slide Key Geodiversity Area. The MPA boundary encompasses all records of burrows in the area based on data from Marine Scotland Science deep-water towed video surveys, and sample locations of sea pens recorded as by-catch from Marine Scotland Science trawl surveys. The MPA boundary comprises of a corridor down the slope that captures examples of the different biological zones that characterise the Hebridean slope.

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Evidence

Last updated: February 2017

Site specific data

There are a range of data that underpin this Nature Conservation MPA. The full overview of the data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope Nature Conservation MPA Data Confidence Assessment. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to its MPA mapper in due course.

All of the data available for this MPA have been generated through JNCC commissioned analysis of existing survey data. These data provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.

 

Survey and data gathering

  • Offshore seabed survey of Geikie Slide & Hebridean Slope Nature Conservation MPA (2016) – A dedicated multidisciplinary survey of Geikie Slide & Hebridean Slope Nature Conservation MPA was conducted in August 2016. The principal aim of the survey was to collect additional information to increase current knowledge of the site features. Reporting is underway and will be made available in due course.

 

Data analysis reports

JNCC commissioned analysis of available survey data are provided in the following reports:

  • EMODnet – Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of sedimentary features from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters.
  • Report on the identification of key geodiversity Areas in Scottish waters – Provides information on the presence and extent of important geological/geomphological areas in Scotland’s seas, which includes the Geikie Slide Key Geodiversity Area of relevance to this Nature Conservation MPA. 
  • Biotope analysis of archived stills from the Strategic Environmental Assessment 7 region of Scotland’s seas.
    Hughes et al. (2014) characterised the biological diversity of the Hebridean continental slope based on archived stills data from 1988 to 1998. The findings indicate that five distinct biological zones with associated communities that change with depth on the slope and help to define the communities that characterise the protected features of the MPA.
  • FRV Scotia – Hebridean Slope Marine Scotland Science Towed Video surveys (2004–2009) – JNCC commissioned an analysis of video footage from several Marine Scotland Science Nephrops stock assessment survey stations within the MPA (surveys conducted in 2004 and 2009), as well as fisheries by-catch records (surveys conducted in 2008 and 2009). These data help confirm the presence of the protected features of the site and are reported in Allen et al. (2014).

 

Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the Data Confidence Assessment. Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.

 

Knowledge gaps

If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the relevant documentation, including the Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope MPA Data Confidence Assessment, please contact us.

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Conservation Advice

Last updated: March 2018

Updated formal conservation advice is now available for this MPA.  Further information on the approach used to develop this advice is available on our 'Conserving MPAs' webpage along with a Glossary of Terms used in JNCC conservation advice and a short video explaining how to use the conservation advice packages. 

You must refer to this advice if you:

  • undertake an impact assessment for a plan or project that could impact the site;
  • provide information for such an assessment;
  •  respond to specific measures to further the conservation objectives for the site; and 
  • consider the need to put new or additional management measures in place.

You may also find it useful to refer to this advice if you:

  • carry out any other activity that could impact the site.

We will engage with stakeholders to identify any lessons which JNCC can learn from customers who have used the advice, with a view to continuing to ensure it is fit-for-purpose.

The following table provides an overview of the components of the conservation advice, and provides hyperlinks to each of the products for this MPA. These elements together form JNCC’s formal conservation advice for this site and should be read in conjunction with each other.  This advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by JNCC (correct as of March 2018). 

Document Overview
Background Information

Explains the purpose of the advice and when it must be referred to.

Conservation Objectives

 

Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (SACO)

The Conservation Objectives set out the broad ecological aims for the site. JNCC provides supplementary advice in the SACO which is essential reading to support interpretation of these conservation objectives.

You can use these documents to assess the impacts of your planned activity on the important attributes of the site.

Please note our current understanding of whether the available evidence indicates that each attribute needs to be recovered or conserved is not provided here. However, links to available evidence for the site are provided and should you require further site-specific information for the site, please contact us.

Conservation Advice Statements

These statements provide a summary of the Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (SACO).

  • Site condition presents our up-to-date understanding of the condition of features within the site;
  • Conservation benefits which the site can provide, these help you understand what is important about the site and why it needs protecting; and
  • Conservation measures which JNCC considers are needed to support achievement of the conservation objectives. These provide clarity around measures needed to support restoration or maintenance of the feature(s) within the site.
Feature Activity Sensitivity Tool (FeAST)

Provides an initial assessment of whether a proposed plan or project (or ongoing activity) may have an impact on a protected feature in the site.

FeAST identifies pressures associated with the most commonly occurring marine activities, and provides detailed assessment of feature sensitivity to these pressures. A human activity is considered capable of affecting a feature where the feature is known to be sensitive to associated pressures.

The sensitivity assessments provided in FeAST should be used at an early stage of a plan or project when considering potential impacts of an activity.

These documents are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.

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Activities and Management

Last updated: March 2017

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed

Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals to the European Commission. A survey for took place in 2016 to establish the first point in a site condition monitoring time-series. Further site condition monitoring work will be required in order to conclude with confidence as to the degree to which the site is moving towards or achieving its conservation objectives.

This site forms part of the UK's contribution to the OSPAR Commission's network of MPAs. As the UK is a contracting party to the OSPAR Commission, JNCC is committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is 'well-managed' by 2020.

JNCC considers 'well-managed' to mean the timely progress of an MPA around the 'MPA management cycle'. This involves:

  1. The documentation of appropriate management information – conservation objectives, advice on activities capable of affecting the protected features of a site, and spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected features of a site.
  2. The implementation of management measures – management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
  3. Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a sites conservation objectives.
  4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives – using available information to infer whether or not a site is moving towards or has achieved its conservation objectives.

The sub-sections that follow provide an account of the progress of Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope Nature Conservation MPA around each of these four stages in the MPA management cycle:

 

1. The documentation of appropriate management information

  • The conservation objectives and advice on activities capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected feature of this site are available under the Conservation Advice section.  Further information is available on our Conserving MPAs webpage
  • Spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected feature of this MPA is available on JNCC's MPA mapper.
  • JNCC is in the process of developing downloadable MPA data packages where appropriate permissions to share datasets are in place.

 

2. The implementation of management measures

This section details progress towards the implementation of management measures for activities considered capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected features of the site. The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and 'licensable' activities.

Fisheries

  • There is evidence of demersal and pelagic effort within the MPA and UK and non-UK registered vessels have been active in the area.
  • Marine Scotland is the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to managing fishing activity. Further information on progress is available on Marine Scotland’s webpages.

Licensable activities

  • Whilst 'licensable' activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within the Geikie Slides and Hebridean Slope MPA at present, any future developments would need to be managed in accordance with the clauses set out under Section 127 of The Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009). Under this clause, JNCC has a statutory responsibility to advise the regulator on developments that are capable of affecting (other than insignificantly) the protected features of the MPA and that may hinder the achievement of the sites conservation objectives. JNCC considers the existing marine licensing process is sufficient to ensure the management of licensable activities taking place, or that could take place in the future, on the protected features of this MPA.
  • For further information, see Marine Scotland’s MPA Draft Management Handbook and Marine Scotland’s guidance for marine license applications
  • Further information on JNCC's role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on JNCC's offshore industry advice webpages

Military activities

  • A small area of the south-western part of the MPA overlaps with a Ministry of Defence practice area.
  • This area is thought to be mostly used for sea surface activity such as vessel transiting and aerial use, and so is unlikely to interact with the protected features of the site.
  • The MoD has incorporated all designated MPAs into their Environmental Protection Guidelines (Maritime) and wider Marine Environmental and Sustainability Assessment Tool. These guidelines are used to manage MOD activity to minimise the associated risks to the environment.

 

3. Site condition monitoring

A monitoring survey of the MPA took place in 2016. The aim of the survey was to establish the first point in a site condition monitoring time-series and to enable the effectiveness of current proposed fisheries management measures to be determined. The data from this survey are under analysis and will be reported on in the Monitoring section when complete.

 

4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives

Whilst a baseline site condition monitoring survey has taken place, further site condition monitoring work will be required in order to conclude with confidence as to the degree to which the site is moving towards or achieving its conservation objectives. Further information will be provided in the Assessment section as it becomes available.

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Monitoring

Last updated: February 2017

JNCC is currently leading on the development of a strategy for biodiversity monitoring across all UK waters, to include MPA monitoring. For MPAs, data and evidence collected from monitoring activities will aim to:

  • Enable assessment of condition of the features within sites;
  • Enable assessment of the degree to which management measures are effective in achieving the conservation objectives for the protected features;
  • Support the identification of priorities for future protection and/or management; and,
  • Enable Government to fulfil its national and international assessment and reporting commitments in relation to MPAs and help identify where further action may be required.

Information on monitoring of this MPA will be provided when it becomes available.

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Assessment

Last updated: February 2017

Assessments of the condition of designated features in offshore MPAs are required to report against our legal obligations. Ideally these assessments should be based on observed data, and then measured against targets for pre-defined indicators. However, for MPAs in offshore waters we do not always have the appropriate information to be able to do so. This is particularly true for seabed habitats, which are the main type of feature designated for protection in offshore MPAs. 

To address these challenges, JNCC has been an active partner in the development of new approaches and tools for the assessment of habitats and species for a variety of national and international status reports.

 

Conservation Assessment Reports

Under Section 124 of the UK Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009), JNCC is required to report to Ministers every six years on the degree to which the conservation objectives of the protected features of a site have been achieved. Every six years from 2012, the Marine Act requires a report setting out how NCMPAs have performed against their conservation objectives, as well as the effectiveness of the network as a whole. Marine Scotland has published a report setting out progress being made in implementing a Marine Protected Area network that supports the Government’s vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive, biologically diverse marine and coastal environment, managed to meet the long-term needs of nature and people.

Outputs of assessments that feed into Marine Act reporting will also feed into reporting under other obligations.

 

UK State of the Seas Reports & UK Marine Strategy Part 1

Charting Progress 2 (CP2) published in 2010, is a comprehensive report on the state of the UK seas. It was published by the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS) community which has over 40 member organisations. The report was based on a robust, peer-reviewed evidence base and describes progress made since the publication of Charting Progress in 2005. It provides key findings from UK marine research and monitoring for use by policy makers and others, as we move towards the UK vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The results from CP2 were incorporated into the UK Marine Strategy Part 1: UK Initial Assessment and Good Environmental Status published in 2012 under the UK Marine Strategy Regulations (2010). The UK Marine Strategy Part 1 (2012) also set out the UK’s definition for Good Environmental Status, which could be achieved by meeting a series of environmental targets. JNCC worked with other organisations in the UKMMAS community to develop a series of indicators that were used to assess progress against each of the targets and to report on progress made since 2012. The results of these assessments have been published in the UK Marine Strategy Part 1: UK Updated Assessment and Good Environmental Status in 2019. Detailed evidence used to make these assessments is available via the Marine Online Assessment Tool (MOAT). It also sets out proposals for updated high-level objectives, targets and operational targets to be used for 2018 to 2024, which build on those set in 2012.

It is worth noting the two other parts of the UK Marine Strategy: UK Marine Strategy Part Two: marine monitoring programmes, published in 2014 and UK Marine Strategy Part Three: programme of measures published in 2015. Updates to these will be made in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

 

OSPAR Quality Status Reports

Many of the assessments in the updated UK Marine Strategy Part 1 2019 were developed and produced in collaboration with other contracting Parties of the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the North East Atlantic. In 2017 OSPAR Published its Intermediate Assessment (IA2017). The IA 2017 further develops OSPAR’s understanding of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic and its current status. It demonstrates OSPAR’s progress towards realising its vision of a clean, healthy and biologically diverse North-East Atlantic, used sustainably. IA2017 follows on from OSPAR’s previous holistic assessment, the OSPAR Quality Status Report in 2010 (QSR2010) and in 2000 (QSR2000).

 

JNCC continues to develop and pilot tools for the assessment of marine habitats and species in offshore waters to improve the quality and transparency of our offshore MPA assessments, and contribute to the monitoring of marine biodiversity in UK waters. These tools cover methods for producing interim assessments of site features and their responses to pressures, as well as developing more robust indicators for determining condition of the features.

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