James, who is based at our Galway office, wrote the paper ‘Impact of intertidal oyster trestle cultivation on the Ecological Status of benthic habitats’ (Forde, J., et al., 2015) as part of a project undertaken by RPS on behalf of Ireland’s Marine Institute.
The project’s focus included field work and research on the impact of aquaculture activities within Natura 2000 sites in support of national efforts on Appropriate Assessment as required under Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive. RPS was commissioned to design and execute extensive benthic surveys at six oyster cultivation sites within designated Natura 2000 sites. The aim was to inform the development of a systematic approach to assess and compare impacts associated with oyster culture activity on intertidal sedimentary habitats (and associated communities) across multiple geographical sites.
The novel approach developed by RPS involved using Water Framework Directive tools to compare communities and habitats across oyster trestle sites based on the sensitivity of faunal communities to disturbance impacts. The approach highlighted the potential of Water Framework Directive tools for the management of aquaculture activity and successfully delivered the information required to support national efforts in assessing impacts from aquaculture operations.
The approach also provides a means for assessing the conservation status and the relative effectiveness of conservation objectives for communities and habitats under the Habitats Directive. Applying this common approach to assessments for the Habitats Directive and Water Framework Directive has the potential to strengthen both Directives and may be used as justification for future attempts towards integrating sampling programmes. Integrating sampling programmes would present an efficient way of addressing Ireland’s monitoring obligations under the Directives.