- 1.Methods of sensitivity assessment to identify species and habitats in need of management or protection have been available since the 1970s.
- 2.The approach to sensitivity assessment adopted by the Marine Life Information Network (MarLIN) assumes that the sensitivity of a community or biotope is dependent on the species within it. However, the application of this approach to sedimentary communities, especially offshore, is complex because of a lack of knowledge of the structural or functional role of many sedimentary species.
- 3.This paper describes a method to assess the overall sensitivity of sedimentary communities, based on the intolerance and recoverability of component species to physical disturbance. A range of methods were applied to identify the best combinations of abundant, dominant or high biomass species for the assessment of sensitivity in the sedimentary communities examined.
- 4.Results showed that reporting the most frequent species' sensitivity assessment, irrespective of the four methods used to select species, consistently underestimated the total sensitivity of the community. In contrast, reporting the most sensitive assessment from those species selected resulted in a range of biotope sensitivities from very low to very high, that was better able to discriminate between the sensitivities of the communities examined.
- 5.The assumptions behind the methodology, its limitations and potential application are discussed.
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