Large-scale features and Marine Protected Areas

Included for their importance in contributing to the overall health and biodiversity of Scotland’s seas, large-scale features are a key element of the Scottish MPA network.

Large-scale features embrace a range of biodiversity interests and their inclusion within the Scottish MPA network complements and supports the conservation of individual habitats and species. They recognise wider ecological and geomorphological processes, which include:

  • Links between different protected features in an MPA
  • The support of individual species and habitats across different levels of the food chain
  • Connectivity within Scotland’s seas more generally e.g. through provision of migration corridors and/or increased productivity.

Five different large-scale features have been incorporated into the Scottish MPA network:

  • seamounts
  • continental slope
  • shelf deeps
  • shelf banks and mounds
  • fronts

These features vary in shape, size and structure and are distributed across the length and breadth of Scotland’s seas, shown in Figure 1. Each large-scale feature plays an important role in Scotland’s seas.

Map of Large-scale features in Scotland's Seas.
Click for a full description

©Crown copyright BGS. 

MPAs and large-scale features

Where a large-scale feature is protected by an MPA there is evidence that the feature meets one or more of the principles set out in the MPA Selection Guidelines. These assess the features’ importance in terms of providing a functional link between the other protected features of the MPA. The principles also consider the scale of the feature and its wider ecological significance in relation the size of the MPA and involve an assessment of the features linkages with other elements of the MPA network.

Find out more

Find out more about the protection of large-scale feature within the Scottish MPA network through the following online resources:

  1. Marine Protected Areas and Large-Scale Features. Position Paper (NatureScot & JNCC).
  2. Seasonal shelf-sea front mapping using satellite ocean colour to support development of the Scottish MPA network. NatureScot Commissioned Report No. 538
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Marine Protected Areas

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