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Alignment of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Habitats Directive:current state and future perspectives


The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) foresees the contribution of several European Union (EU) policies to complete the ambitious assessment of ‘Good Environmental Status’ (GES). For biodiversity Descriptor (D1), the contribution of the Habitat and Birds Directive (HBD) is critical considering that there is a huge overlap in species which are of the MSFDs concern, and which the HBD includes in both their assessments and well-established monitoring programmes which generate information for the Directive. The GES Decision encourages EU Member States (MS) to re-use the HBD assessments. Despite the overlaps across those policies, there is still room to improve the alignment of key concepts, timing, methodological standards for assessments, threshold values, scales, and integration rules. Moreover, the evaluation of MS’ MSFD reports revealed an inadequate exploitation of existing assessments for common species. However, MS’ justification for not fully exploiting existing Habitat Directive (HD) assessments is not always clear, raising issues concerning their suitability to the MSFD objectives. The multidimensional overlap of the MSFD and HD was explored by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) through several efforts to support the MSFD implementation. These efforts include the JRC’s work on methods to set threshold values for species, the evaluation of MS reports for the MSFD (monitoring and GES assessment), and the determination of species which are of MSFD D1 concern. This technical report collates the knowledge derived from such efforts to pave the road towards an MSFD-HD scientific, political, and technical alignment. The analysis is based on a comparison of the policy documents’ key concepts, and on a comparison of assessments and reported information from the MS.