The modelling work package will address the programme objective of developing cross-border capacity by drawing together two currently unrelated national hydrodynamic models, the Irish Northeast Atlantic Model and the Scottish Shelf Model (SSM), or an alternative west coast domain, into an integrated model system for the target region.
This interfaced hydrodynamic model will itself address one of the programme’s required model outputs, providing simulations of the evolving marine environment, but it will also provide the underpinning for two further models. These will consider biological connectivity between sites across the region and hydrodynamic habitat type, both of key importance in understanding, developing and managing MPA networks.
Initial development of the connectivity model will follow release of the 2016 hydrodynamic hindcast, with results updated and released when a second year of hindcast is available.
Source locations/habitats, dispersal date/duration and behaviour of specific organisms will be chosen based on the best available information to represent existing or potential MPA sites and priority species. Prior feedback on these aspects will be sought from organisations involved in the design and/or management of the MPA network, including NWPS (Ireland), DOENI and CNCC (Northern Ireland), Marine Scotland and SNH (Scotland) and JNCC.
Development of the hydrodynamic habitat model will proceed in parallel with the connectivity model, similarly using the initial hydrodynamic model hindcasts. A series of data levels will be constructed of ecologically relevant physical parameters (including tidal current speed, residual current speed, turbulent intensity, level of summer stratification, level of winter stratification, etc.).
The habitat model will then define habitat types within this parameter space, leading to the production of hydrodynamic habitat maps. While hydrodynamic factors are key determinants of marine habitat a full habitat description also requires information on seafloor topography, substrate type, etc. By providing raw hydrodynamic data layers we will create a data resource that can be drawn into more complex habitat classifications, and species-level distribution models.
We will also investigate the potential to link habitat classifications with connectivity information to identify coherent and connected habitat blocks in an eco-regionalisation approach.