Mapping and assessment of the marine ecosystems and their services in Bulgarian Black sea waters

Europe's seas supply ecosystem services essential for human well-being, including food through fisheries, materials, energy, climate regulation through the absorption of CO2, opportunities for recreation. Many of these services provide livelihoods for an estimated 41 % of the Europe's population living in coastal regions (in 2011), as well as contributing to the well-being of the wider population.

However, in recent years, marine ecosystems are being subjected to pressure from overexploitation (overfishing and destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling), pollution and eutrophication, invasive species, climate changes, which have resulted in loss of biodiversity and habitat degradation.

Effective policy implementation is necessary to reduce these impacts and restore the resilience of the European marine ecosystems. There are some signs of improvement as a result of the undertaken measures in some areas, for example overfishing and nutrient loading are decreasing in the Baltic and North Seas, but there is growing concern about the complex combined impact of multiple pressures on the marine environment.

In spite of the measures for the protection of Europe's seas through European, national and international legislations, policies and agreements, there is still a need for additional measures to ensure conservation. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive sets goals for Europe's seas to be healthy, clean and productive, yet only the last of these goals is being met. Only 9 % of the marine habitats and 7 % of marine species assessed under the Habitats Directive are in favourable conservation status, and 66 % of habitats are unfavourable.

Despite recent progress and ambitious policies, the target of reducing the loss of biodiversity by 2010 has not been met. The 2020 target to conserve 10 % of Europe's marine ecosystems is challenging, as only 5.9 % of EU waters are currently within a network of Marine Protected Areas.

Ecosystem-based management is an approach that can help to reconcile conflicting demands on marine ecosystems, but its implementation is limited by lack of knowledge on the condition of marine ecosystems. It is therefore crucial to apply the EU's 'precautionary' and 'polluter-pays' principles until this knowledge can be gathered.

In order to achieve this, a detailed mapping of the biologically and ecologically important habitats, and their associated human activities and uses, is necessary. The European seas have a wide range of habitat types and accompanying biodiversity. The assessment of the relative value of the marine habitats based on the services they supply, and on their sensitivity to different human activities, is an important step towards the development of a well-planned approach for the management and sustainable use of the marine environment. Up to this moment, the information on the goods and services provided by the European marine ecosystems, on their sensitivity towards human activities, and on their conservation status, has not been systematized.

The aims of the project are:

  • to identify and map the marine ecosystem types in the EEZ of the Republic of Bulgaria according to the requirements of Action 5 of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy, using currently available public data, and applying the developed specialized methodology for the marine ecosystems;
  • using the available data, to assess the current ecological state of the previously identified marine ecosystem types according to the methodology;
  • to identify the ecosystem services in the CICES (Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services) nomenclature that are applicable for the marine ecosystems;
  • to assess the available data, to identify the areas where collection of additional data is necessary, and to make recommendations on the future activities needed to complete the assessment of the marine ecosystem services in Bulgaria;
  • using the available data, to demonstrate the link between biodiversity, ecosystem state, and ecosystems services, as well as their key role in maintaining human well-being;
  • to demonstrate how the assessment of ecosystem services can enhance the harmonization and integration of the different legislations related to the sustainable use and conservation of the marine environment, and contribute to decision making.