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Matt Frost, Marine Biological Association

Long-term monitoring in the marine environment: the Marine Environmental Change Network (MECN)


There is a long history of marine surveys and observations in European seas. Unfortunately, by the 1980s long-term marine time-series were falling out of fashion and it is estimated that 40% of European time-series had funding withdrawn at this time. However, it wasn’t long before their value was recognised in relation to observing climate effects. In the UK, a 2002 report “Review of Current Marine Observations in relation to present and future needs” identified the need for the continuation, restoration and enhancement of long-term marine observations in UK waters, and the establishment of a network of parties involved in this work. The Defra-funded Marine Environmental Change Network (MECN) was established in response to these needs.

The MECN has two main elements: a science programme and a knowledge transfer programme. The science programme has looked at issues such as how multiple datasets can be analysed to show changes over long-term time-scales (“MECN Long-term Datasets Analysis”; report to Defra, 2009; Spencer et al. 2010, Marine Ecology). Long-term changes in biodiversity in relation to drivers such as climate change and fishing have also been examined using some of the individual time-series. A key aim of the MECN is to “ensure that information from the network is provided to policy makers and other end-users to enable them to produce more accurate assessments of ecosystem state and gain a clearer understanding of factors influencing change in marine ecosystems”. The knowledge transfer programme is therefore aimed at providing evidence to support policy through mechanisms such as the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership and the United Kingdom Marine Monitoring and Assessment Framework (UKMMAS).


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