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OSPAR list of defined pressures on the marine environment

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DescriptionList of defined pressures (stated by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to be the mechanisms through which activities impact the marine environment) as specified by the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment for the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) International Correspondence Group on Cumulative Effects (ICG-C) and distributed by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee
CreatorMEDIN Standards Group
Version Info3
Identifier M14
Register Manager British Oceanographic Data Centre
Register Owner MEDIN Standards Group
Identifier PrefLabel Definition Date
O5 Barrier to species movement The physical obstruction of species movements and including local movements (within and between roosting, breeding, feeding areas) and regional/global migrations (e.g. birds, eels, salmon, whales). Both include up river movements (where tidal barrages and devices or dams could obstruct movements) or movements across open waters (offshore wind farm, wave or tidal device arrays, mariculture infrastructure or fixed fishing gears). Species affected are mostly birds, fish, mammals. 2015-09-11
D3 Changes in suspended solids (water clarity) Changes in water clarity from sediment and organic particulate matter concentrations. It is related to activities disturbing sediment and/or organic particulate matter and mobilising it into the water column. Could be "natural" land run-off and riverine discharges or from anthropogenic activities such as all forms of dredging, disposal at sea, cable and pipeline burial, secondary effects of construction works, e.g. breakwaters. Particle size, hydrological energy (current speed and direction) and tidal excursion are all influencing factors on the spatial extent and temporal duration. This pressure also relates to changes in turbidity from suspended solids of organic origin (as such it excludes sediments - see the changes in suspended sediment"" pressure type). Salinity, turbulence, pH and temperature may result in flocculation of suspended organic matter. Anthropogenic sources mostly short lived and over relatively small spatial extents. 2015-09-11
O6 Death or injury by collision Injury or mortality from collisions of biota with both static and/or moving structures. Examples include: Collision with rigs (e.g. birds) or screens in intake pipes (e.g. fish at power stations) (static) or collisions with wind turbine blades, fish and mammal collisions with tidal devices and shipping (moving). Activities increasing number of vessels transiting areas, e.g. new port development or construction works will influence the scale and intensity of this pressure. 2015-09-11
P8 Deoxygenation Any deoxygenation that is not directly associated with nutrient or organic enrichment. The lowering, temporarily or more permanently, of oxygen levels in the water or substrate due to anthropogenic causes (some areas may naturally be deoxygenated due to stagnation of water masses, e.g. inner basins of fjords). This is typically associated with nutrient and organic enrichment, but it can also derive from the release of ballast water or other stagnant waters (where organic or nutrient enrichment may be absent). Ballast waters may be deliberately deoxygenated via treatment with inert gases to kill non-indigenous species 2015-09-11
O2 Electromagnetic changes Localised electric and magnetic fields associated with operational power cables and telecommunication cables (if equipped with power relays). Such cables may generate electric and magnetic fields that could alter behaviour and migration patterns of sensitive species (e.g. sharks and rays). 2015-09-11
H4 Emergence regime changes - local, including tidal level change considerations Changes in water levels reducing the intertidal zone (and the associated/dependant habitats). The pressure relates to changes in both the spatial area and duration that intertidal species are immersed and exposed during tidal cycles (the percentage of immersion is dependant on the position or height on the shore relative to the tide). The spatial and temporal extent of the pressure will be dependant on the causal activities but can be delineated. This relates to anthropogenic causes that may directly influence the temporal and spatial extent of tidal immersion, e.g. upstream and downstream of a tidal barrage the emergence would be respectively reduced and increased, beach re-profiling could change gradients and therefore exposure times, capital dredging may change the natural tidal range, managed realignment, saltmarsh creation. Such alteration may be of importance in estuaries because of their influence on tidal flushing and potential wave propagation. Changes in tidal flushing can change the sediment dynamics and may lead to changing patterns of deposition and erosion. Changes in tidal levels will only affect the emergence regime in areas that are inundated for only part of the time. The effects that tidal level changes may have on sediment transport are not restricted to these areas, so a very large construction could significantly affect the tidal level at a deep site without changing the emergence regime. Such a change could still have a serious impact. This excludes pressure from sea level rise which is considered under the climate change pressures. 2015-09-11
B2 Genetic modification and translocation of indigenous species Genetic modification can be either deliberate (e.g. introduction of farmed individuals to the wild, GM food production) or a by-product of other activities (e.g. mutations associated with radionuclide contamination). Former related to escapees or deliberate releases e.g. cultivated species such as farmed salmon, oysters, scallops if GM practices employed. Scale of pressure compounded if GM species captured and translocated in ballast water. Mutated organisms from the latter could be transferred on ships hulls, in ballast water, with imports for aquaculture, aquaria, live bait, species traded as live seafood or "natural" migration. Movement of native species to new regions can also introduce different genetic stock. 2015-09-11
D1 Habitat structure changes - removal of substratum (extraction) Unlike the "physical change" pressure type where there is a permanent change in sea bed type (e.g. sand to gravel, sediment to a hard artificial substrate) the "habitat structure change" pressure type relates to temporary and/or reversible change, e.g. from marine mineral extraction where a proportion of seabed sands or gravels are removed but a residual layer of seabed is similar to the pre-dredge structure and as such biological communities could re-colonise; navigation dredging to maintain channels where the silts or sands removed are replaced by non-anthropogenic mechanisms so the sediment typology is not changed. 2015-09-11
P2 Hydrocarbon and PAH contamination. Includes those priority substances listed in Annex II of Directive 2008/105/EC. Increases in the levels of these compounds compared with background concentrations. Naturally occurring compounds, complex mixtures of two basic molecular structures: - straight chained aliphatic hydrocarbons (relatively low toxicity and susceptible to degradation); - multiple ringed aromatic hydrocarbons (higher toxicity and more resistant to degradation). These fall into three categories based on source (includes both aliphatics and polyaromatic hydrocarbons): - petroleum hydrocarbons (from natural seeps, oil spills and surface water run-off); - pyrogenic hydrocarbons (from combustion of coal, woods and petroleum); - biogenic hydrocarbons (from plants and animals). Ecological consequences include tainting, some are acutely toxic, carcinomas, growth defects. 2015-09-11
O4 Introduction of light Direct inputs of light from anthropogenic activities, i.e. lighting on structures during construction or operation to allow 24 hour working; new tourist facilities, e.g. promenade or pier lighting, lighting on oil and gas facilities etc. Ecological effects may be the diversion of bird species from migration routes if they are disorientated by or attracted to the lights. It is also possible that continuous lighting may lead to increased algal growth. 2015-09-11
P4 Introduction of other substances (solid, liquid or gas) The systematic or intentional release of liquids, gases (from Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) Annex III Table 2) is being considered e.g. in relation to produced water from the oil industry. It should therefore be considered in parallel with codes P1, P2 and P3 from M14. 2015-09-11
B3 Introduction or spread of non-indigenous species The direct or indirect introduction of non-indigenous species, e.g. chinese mitten crabs, slipper limpets, Pacific oyster and their subsequent spreading and out-competing of native species. Ballast water, hull fouling, stepping stone effects (e.g. offshore wind farms) may facilitate the spread of such species. This pressure could be associated with aquaculture, mussel or shellfishery activities due to imported seed stock imported or from accidental releases. 2015-09-11
B4 Introductions of microbial pathogens Untreated or insufficiently treated effluent discharges and run-off from terrestrial sources and vessels. It may also be a consequence of ballast water releases. In mussel or shellfisheries where seed stock are imported,"infected" seed could be introduced, or it could be from accidental releases of effluvia. Escapees, e.g. farmed salmon could be infected and spread pathogens in the indigenous populations. Aquaculture could release contaminated faecal matter, from which pathogens could enter the food chain. 2015-09-11
O1 Litter Marine litter is any manufactured or processed solid material from anthropogenic activities discarded, disposed or abandoned (excluding legitimate disposal) once it enters the marine and coastal environment including: plastics, metals, timber, rope, fishing gear etc and their degraded components, e.g. microplastic particles. Ecological effects can be physical (smothering), biological (ingestion, including uptake of microplastics; entangling; physical damage; accumulation of chemicals) and/or chemical (leaching, contamination). 2015-09-11
P6 Nutrient enrichment Increased levels of the elements nitrogen, phosphorus, silicon (and iron) in the marine environment compared to background concentrations. Nutrients can enter marine waters by natural processes (e.g. decomposition of detritus, riverine, direct and atmospheric inputs) or anthropogenic sources (e.g. waste water runoff, terrestrial/agricultural runoff, sewage discharges, aquaculture, atmospheric deposition). Nutrients can also enter marine regions from 'upstream' locations, e.g. via tidal currents to induce enrichment in the receiving area. Nutrient enrichment may lead to eutrophication (see also organic enrichment). Adverse environmental effects include deoxygenation, algal blooms, changes in community structure of benthos and macrophytes. 2017-08-10
P7 Organic enrichment Resulting from the degraded remains of dead biota and microbiota (land and sea); faecal matter from marine animals; flocculated colloidal organic matter and the degraded remains of: sewage material, domestic wastes, industrial wastes etc. Organic matter can enter marine waters from sewage discharges, aquaculture or terrestrial/agricultural runoff. Black carbon comes from the products of incomplete combustion (PIC) of fossil fuels and vegetation. Organic enrichment may lead to eutrophication (see also nutrient enrichment). Adverse environmental effects include deoxygenation, algal blooms, changes in community structure of benthos and macrophytes. 2015-09-11
D2 Penetration and/or disturbance of the substrate below the surface of the seabed, including abrasion The disturbance of sediments where there is limited or no loss of substrate from the system. This pressure is associated with activities such as anchoring, taking of sediment/geological cores, cone penetration tests, cable burial (ploughing or jetting), propeller wash from vessels, certain fishing activities, e.g. scallop dredging, beam trawling. Agitation dredging, where sediments are deliberately disturbed by gravity and hydraulic dredging where sediments are deliberately disturbed and moved by currents could also be associated with this pressure type. Compression of sediments, e.g. from the legs of a jack-up barge could also fit into this pressure type. Abrasion relates to the damage of the sea bed surface layers (typically up to 50 cm depth) Activities associated with abrasion can cover relatively large spatial areas and include: fishing with towed demersal trawls (fish and shellfish); bioprospecting such as harvesting of biogenic features such as maerl beds where, after extraction, conditions for recolonisation remain suitable or relatively localised activities including: seaweed harvesting, recreation, potting, aquaculture. Change from gravel to silt substrate would adversely affect herring spawning grounds. 2015-09-11
L2 Physical change (to another seabed type) The permanent change of one marine habitat type to another marine habitat type, through the change in substatum, including to artificial (e.g. concrete). This therefore involves the permanent loss of one marine habitat type but has an equal creation of a different marine habitat type. Associated activities include the installation of infrastructure (e.g. surface of platforms or wind farm foundations, marinas, coastal defences, pipelines and cables), the placement of scour protection where soft sediment habitats are replaced by hard/coarse substrate habitats, removal of coarse substrate (marine mineral extraction) in those instances where surficial finer sediments are lost, capital dredging where the residual sedimentary habitat differs structurally from the pre-dredge state, creation of artificial reefs, mariculture i.e. mussel beds. Protection of pipes and cables using rock dumping and mattressing techniques. Placement of cuttings piles from oil and gas activities could fit this pressure type, however, there may be an additional pressures, e.g. "pollution and other chemical changes" theme (P1 to P8). This pressure excludes navigation dredging where the depth of sediment is changes locally but the sediment typology is not changed. 2015-09-11
L1 Physical loss (to land or freshwater habitat) The permanent loss of marine habitats. Associated activities are land claim, new coastal defences that encroach on and move the Mean High Water Springs mark seawards, the footprint of a wind turbine on the seabed, dredging if it alters the position of the halocline. This excludes changes from one marine habitat type to another marine habitat type 2015-09-11
P5 Radionuclide contamination Introduction of radionuclide material, raising levels above background concentrations. Such materials can come from nuclear installation discharges, and from land or sea -based operations (e.g. oil platforms, medical sources). The disposal of radioactive material at sea is prohibited unless it fulfils exemption criteria developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), namely that both the following radiological criteria are satisfied: (i) the effective dose expected to be incurred by any member of the public or ships crew is 10 micro-Sv or less in a year; (ii) the collective effective dose to the public or ships crew is not more than 1 man Sv per annum, then the material is deemed to contain de minimis levels of radioactivity and may be disposed at sea pursuant to it fulfilling all the other provisions under the Convention. The individual dose criteria are placed in perspective (i.e. very low), given that the average background dose to the UK population is approximately 2700 micro-Sv/a. Ports and coastal sediments can be affected by the authorised discharge of both current and historical low-level radioactive wastes from coastal nuclear establishments. 2015-09-11
B6 Removal of non-target species By-catch associated with all fishing activities. The physical effects of fishing gear on sea bed communities are addressed by the "abrasion" pressure type (D2) so B6 addresses the direct removal of individuals associated with fishing/ harvesting. Ecological consequences include food web dependencies, population dynamics of fish, marine mammals, turtles and sea birds (including survival threats in extreme cases, e.g. Harbour Porpoise in Central and Eastern Baltic). 2015-09-11
B5 Removal of target species The commercial exploitation of fish and shellfish stocks, including smaller scale harvesting, angling and scientific sampling. The physical effects of fishing gear on sea bed communities are addressed by the abrasion"" pressure type D2, so B5 addresses the direct removal / harvesting of biota. Ecological consequences include the sustainability of stocks, impacting energy flows through food webs and the size and age composition within fish stocks. 2015-09-11
H2 Salinity changes - local Events or activities increasing or decreasing local salinity. This relates to anthropogenic sources/causes that have the potential to be controlled, e.g. freshwater discharges from pipelines that reduce salinity, or brine discharges from salt caverns washings that may increase salinity. This could also include hydromorphological modification, e.g. capital navigation dredging if this alters the halocline, or erection of barrages or weirs that alter freshwater/seawater flow/exchange rates. The pressure may be temporally and spatially delineated derived from the causal event/activity and local environment. 2015-09-11
D4 Siltation rate changes, including smothering (depth of vertical sediment overburden) When the natural rates of siltation are altered (increased or decreased) by, for example, outfalls, increased run-off, dredging/disposal or dredge spoil. Siltation (or sedimentation) is the settling out of silt/sediments suspended in the water column. Activities associated with this pressure type include mariculture, land claim, navigation dredging, disposal at sea, marine mineral extraction, cable and pipeline laying and various construction activities. It can result in short lived sediment concentration gradients and the accumulation of sediments on the sea floor. 2015-09-11
P3 Synthetic compound contamination (including pesticides, antifoulants, pharmaceuticals). Includes those priority substances listed in Annex II of Directive 2008/105/EC Increases in the levels of these compounds compared with background concentrations. Synthesised from a variety of industrial processes and commercial applications. Chlorinated compounds include polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs), dichlor-diphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and 2,3,7,8- tetrachlorodibenzo(p)dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD) are persistent and often very toxic. Pesticides vary greatly in structure, composition, environmental persistence and toxicity to non-target organisms. Includes: insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides and fungicides. Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products originate from veterinary and human applications compiling a variety of products including, Over the counter medications, fungicides, chemotherapy drugs and animal therapeutics, such as growth hormones. Due to their biologically active nature, high levels of consumption, known combined effects, and their detection in most aquatic environments they have become an emerging concern. Ecological consequences include physiological changes (e.g. growth defects, carcinomas) 2015-09-11
H1 Temperature changes - local Events or activities increasing or decreasing local water temperature. This is most likely from thermal discharges, e.g. the release of cooling waters from power stations. This could also relate to temperature changes in the vicinity of operational sub sea power cables. This pressure only applies within the thermal plume generated by the pressure source. It excludes temperature changes from global warming which will be at a regional scale (and as such are addressed under the climate change pressures). 2015-09-11
P1 Transition elements and organo-metal (e.g. TBT) contamination. Includes those priority substances listed in Annex II of Directive 2008/105/EC. The increase in transition elements levels compared with background concentrations, due to their input from land/riverine sources, by air or directly at sea. For marine sediments the main elements of concern are Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, Mercury, Nickel, Lead and Zinc organo-metallic compounds such as the butyl tins (Tri butyl tin and its derivatives) can be highly persistent and chronic exposure to low levels has adverse biological effects, e.g. Imposex in molluscs. 2015-09-11
O3 Underwater noise changes Increases over and above background noise levels (consisting of environmental noise (ambient) and incidental manmade/anthropogenic noise (apparent)) at a particular location. Species known to be affected are marine mammals and fish. The theoretical zones of noise influence are temporary or permanent hearing loss, discomfort and injury; response; masking and detection. In extreme cases noise pressures may lead to death. The physical or behavioural effects are dependant on a number of variables, including the sound pressure, loudness, sound exposure level and frequency. High amplitude low and mid-frequency impulsive sounds and low frequency continuous sound are of greatest concern for effects on marine mammals and fish. Some species may be responsive to the associated particle motion rather than the usual concept of noise. Noise propagation can be over large distances (tens of kilometres) but transmission losses can be attributable to factors such as water depth and sea bed topography. Noise levels associated with construction activities, such as pile-driving, are typically significantly greater than operational phases (i.e. shipping, operation of a wind farm). 2015-09-11
B1 Visual disturbance The disturbance of biota by anthropogenic activities, e.g. increased vessel movements, such as during construction phases for new infrastructure (bridges, cranes, port buildings etc), increased personnel movements, increased tourism, increased vehicular movements on shore etc disturbing bird roosting areas, seal haul out areas etc. 2015-09-11
H3 Water flow (tidal current) changes - local, including sediment transport considerations Changes in water movement associated with tidal streams (the rise and fall of the tide, riverine flows), prevailing winds and ocean currents. The pressure is therefore associated with activities that have the potential to modify hydrological energy flows, e.g. Tidal energy generation devices remove (convert) energy and such pressures could be manifested leeward of the device, capital dredging may deepen and widen a channel and therefore decrease the water flow, canalisation and/or structures may alter flow speed and direction; managed realignment (e.g. Wallasea, England). The pressure will be spatially delineated. The pressure extremes are a shift from a high to a low energy environment (or vice versa). The biota associated with these extremes will be markedly different as will the substrate, sediment supply/transport and associated seabed elevation changes. The potential exists for profound changes (e.g. coastal erosion/deposition) to occur at long distances from the construction itself if an important sediment transport pathway was disrupted. As such these pressures could have multiple and complex impacts associated with them. 2015-09-11
H5 Wave exposure changes - local Local changes in wave length, height and frequency. Exposure on an open shore is dependant upon the distance of open seawater over which wind may blow to generate waves (the fetch) and the strength and incidence of winds. Anthropogenic sources of this pressure include artificial reefs, breakwaters, barrages, wrecks that can directly influence wave action or activities that may locally affect the incidence of winds, e.g. a dense network of wind turbines may have the potential to influence wave exposure, depending upon their location relative to the coastline. 2015-09-11