Research needs are generally the same across all EBSAs, and are presented here as a list that is applicable to all EBSAs. If there are specific needs that are unique to a particular EBSA, these are given at the end of the webpage outlining the results of their status assessment and management recommendations. The research needs for EBSAs are as follows:


Data, foundational knowledge and understanding

  • Improved mapping of ecosystem types within and around EBSAs as part of national and regional mapping processes is required. Although significant improvements have been made, there still needs to be effort to refine classification, improve mapping, groundtruth the boundaries and monitor changes in ecosystem types. This is particularly important for offshore types which are poorly known and poorly delineated. In addition, special benthic features like canyons and seamounts remain poorly mapped. Improved bathymetry data and targeted surveys are needed.
  • Improved species information is required for EBSAs, particularly where threatened or fragile, sensitive or vulnerable species underpin (or could strengthen) the EBSA status. This is also important for informing whether conservation actions (MPAs, zoning, other place-based controls and general controls) are effective in achieving biodiversity targets (especially for resource species) and managing impacts.
  • Species assessments within EBSAs to comprehensively list threatened species and ensure they are being adequately catered for in the EBSA networks. This is important to ensure that management of EBSAs fully meets requirements for threatened and sensitive/vulnerable species. Clearly, if if relevant species are present in an EBSA but are not known, there is no guarantee that management activities (e.g. zoning) would meet their requirements. This includes both resident and migratory species.
  • More ecological studies are required to better understand many of the offshore ecosystem types that are currently mapped, but poorly known. This includes their constituent biodiversity and ecology, ecological processes and ecosystem services. Field based survey data are often lacking or outdated. EBSA provide a logical focus area for survey cruises, repeat sampling and long-term monitoring.  
  • Systematic research on actual ecological condition of EBSA is required. Currently ecological condition is inferred from mapping cumulative pressures, but direct evidence is required. EBSA zones can also provide useful controls for studies on impacts of individual pressures (which may be excluded from some zones and allowed in adjacent areas). 
  • Research on human-impact mitigation is also recognised as a research priority. In this regard, establishing and strengthening protection in EBSAs provides a notable research opportunity. As management regimes change within EBSAs, it is important to track recovery of sites following exclusion of key pressures in well-designed experiments (e.g., before-after, control-impact designs) to quantitatively determine the efficacy of improved management for coastal and marine biodiversity.
  • Improved sharing of data (especially spatial data) will improve overall understanding of EBSAs. Currently, even if data exist, these are hard to identify and access. Organized sharing of (spatial) data is critical for rational evidence-based management of EBSAs.


Monitoring, management, and conservation

  • Long-term monitoring programmes need to be established to facilitate early detection of degradation of EBSA biodiversity features and ecosystems. This includes early warning of invasive species and to track changes from global change (both climate change and other pressures as economic activities in the ocean intensify and diversify). EBSAs could serve as reference sites given that they are largely in good ecological condition (or at least better condition compared to surrounding areas) and where negotiations are underway to control activities in EBSAs.  
  • Improved monitoring of actual levels of human activity within and around EBSA is required. Short term improvements are possible through minor adjustments to existing fisheries monitoring protocols. For example, moving towards a point specific summary of activity rather than broad grid-based integration of data would provide a much-improved view of actual activities. 
  • Potential for the expansion of Marine Protected Areas should be explored in EBSA conservation zones. In particular, EBSA biodiversity features (e.g. ecosystems, species and ecological process areas) that are under-represented in national and regional protected area networks, should be investigated in terms of their potential for inclusion in MPA networks.