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Georeferenced information on marine habitats is required by both Member States and the EU to support policy formulation and the implementation of directives regarding the marine environment. Protecting the seabed, or the weighted exploitation of it, requires the best possible understanding of its habitats. The rate human activity is developing in the sea makes this requirement ever more urgent.

The objective of the MESHATLANTIC project is to compile the knowledge of our seas, particularly the seabed habitats, and produce harmonised habitat maps for the AA. The added value of the project comes from enabling researchers from AA countries to adopt common practices, taking into account the fact that cartography traditions differ between partner countries. Harmonisation is required in the area of topographic surveys (such as by optimising the protocols for surveys at sea) and in the area of data processing (to obtain similar maps that can be matched to each other).

The project aims to collect the detailed maps that already exist, mainly on paper, in the four countries represented in the partnership and to translate them to the Eunis system, a classification system for both land and sea European habitats. Simultaneously, the project aims to contribute to the preparation of a global seabed map of the AA continental shelf, based on a physical data set (depth, sediment type and energy at the seabed). This map will be relatively detailed and geographically complete. Each partner has chosen a Natura 2000 site in national waters as a study area for testing their detailed cartography methods so that ongoing comparison of methods and results can take place between partners. These results will be made available through an interactive internet portal for the mapping.

The added value of MESHATLANTIC can be seen at different levels: extending the geographical coverage of existing knowledge of the AA seabed, especially to its southern extent, into the Iberian and Biscay shelves; with additional research work, it will contribute to building and adding value to a variety of data available in the AA countries and consequently to the harmonisation of methods and best practices, facilitating the integration of the science and technology existing in the AA at a higher European level.

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