Task groups
This report presents the findings of the task group addressing Descriptor 1 with the aim of establishing the criteria and methodological standards that Member States would need to assess the state of their marine and coastal waters and to achieve Good Environmental Status.
In-depth assessment
List of key issues derived from the in-depth assessment for D1, 4 and 6, suggestions and potential actions to be dealt with.

Issues on implementation


Potential actions/actors

Low integration with WFD and BD, relatively higher with HD.

Better exploitation of methods, data and features derived from other legislations.


Low/Moderate integration between MSFD and RSC.

Active involvement of the RSC or the MS on regional level in the establishment of coherent and comparable with WFD and RSC' indicators, methods and thresholds.

Links between MSFD-WFD-RSC / MS & RSC

Reporting on biodiversity (from species to ecosystems) considering a minimum list of state characteristics common for neighbour MS.

Adaptation of methodologies, indicators, state characteristics on regional level.

RSC could supervise the adaptation / RSC & MS

Heterogeneity in definition of GES and targets both at European level and at RSC level.

Links between definition of GES and targets, through predefined methods.


HELCOM could be considered as a good practice of MSFD-RSC integration.

HELCOM approach to be adopted or to inspire other RSC, if applicable.


Gaps in biodiversity knowledge

Encourage bilateral and regional cooperation to set a more comprehensive background on biodiversity taking into account the environmental similarities.

Scientific and pilot project at regional and sub-regional level / MS and RSC and the Commission

Issues on methods


Potential actions/actors

High heterogeneity in the number and type of methodological approaches, thresholds and limits in MS reports.

Common agreed and comparable methodological standards on a regional or EU scale.

Starting for the frequently used methods / MS & RSC

Inconsistency on indicators reported per criterion.

Core set of biodiversity indicators to ensure the minimum level of coherence, without degrading the value of MSFD.

JRC led network of experts / COM Decision revision

High heterogeneity in the indicator definition: generic indicators (e.g. 1.2.1) to methodological-like description (e.g. 1.6.3).

Improve the interpretation of indicators by linking them with specific methods on a pan-European or regional level, if possible.

JRC led network of experts / COM Decision revision

Definition of GES and targets are based on state or impact indicators. Lack of pressure-based indicators for biodiversity.

Define pressure indicators for biodiversity based on MS initial assessment.

JRC led network of experts / COM Decision revision

Issues on reporting


Potential actions/actors

Differences between paper reports and electronic sheets; missing or not adequately reported information; similar information is reported under different fields; Different level of detail in the reported information.

Electronic reports should reflect paper reports to facilitate the assessment of Art 8, 9 and 10 implementation and not to be presented as a second report that completes or covers the first one. The required information in the electronic reports could be significantly reduced and the process could be automated by using drop-down boxes with specific option.

Updated guidance on reporting with reduced and more specific fields/ ENV

Inconsistency in reports regarding Article 8, 9 & 10 implementation, the use of pressures and impacts in them and their link with criteria and indicators.

Clear links between pressures and impacts (Annex III, Table 2 of MSFD) and criteria and indicators (COM DEC 2010/477/EU) and thereafter between Art. 8, 9 and 10, taking into account the connection with Table 1 in Annex III of MSFD.

JRC led network of experts / COM Decision revision

Improving the efficiency and homogeneity of reporting sheets; improve data access and data management for the MS evaluation of MSFD implementation (Art. 12).

Coherence in reporting to allow for accurate and meaningful IDA.

Improve electronic forms, data & metadata availability / MS & ENV

Review of the Commission Decision 2010/477/EU
The MSFD Committee (Art. 25 of the MSFD) discussed and concluded an approach and an outline for the review and possible revision of the Commission Decision 2010/477/EU on criteria and methodological standards Good Environmental Status (GES) of marine waters and of MSFD Annex III. The review has been carried out by the EC JRC together with experts nominated by EU Member States, and has considered contributions from the GES Working Group in accordance with the roadmap set out in the MSFD implementation strategy. 

The outcomes of the first phase of the review, namely the technical review of the Commission Decision 2010/477/EU for Descriptor 1 concluded with the D1 review manual report and the D1 review workshop report that complements the review manual by providing solutions to the outstanding issues that were highlighted in the D1 review manual.
Specifying linkages across EU legislations
Even though the assessment classifications (FCS and GES) are different, the criteria for species and habitats in the MSFD and the Habitats Directive (HD) are very similar (Table 1), and offer good opportunities for optimising assessments (i.e. coherent methods based on common criteria). These criteria provide a 'framework' whereby only relevant criteria should be allocated for each species or habitat (e.g. habitat distributional range is not suitable for physically defined habitats).
Table 1. Pairing MSFD species and habitats criteria with the Nature Directive's criteria.

MSFD (D1, 3, 4, 6)


IUCN Red List


Distribution (1.1)


Range (EOO, AOO)

Population size (1.2); reproductive capacity (3.2)


Population size

Small population

Population condition (1.3); age & size distribution (3.3)

Mature individuals incl. above

Habitat for species

Habitat quality incl. in Range

Future prospects

Included above


Distribution (1.4)


Quantity (extent of occurrence; area of occupancy)

Extent (1.5)

Area covered

Condition (1.6, 6.2)

Structures & functions

Quality (biotic, abiotic)

Future prospects

Included above

Linkages with international and RSC norms and standards
The HELCOM CORESET project developed initial proposals for core indicators. The CORESET II project (2013-2015) continues to develop these core indicators, and will potentially develop additional indicators to strengthen for example, the coverage of plankton. The core indicators were developed using the common principles agreed by HELCOM (HOD 35/2011). Currently, 20 core indicators are being developed for biological diversity: five core indicators cover benthic habitats and communities, four indicators cover mammals, five cover birds (one shared with mammals) and five cover fish. The pelagic or planktonic features have a weaker representation - with only one zooplankton indicator. The 20 biodiversity indicators relate to three MSFD Descriptors, D1, D4 and D6 (i.e. not just to D1). As a separate exercise, HELCOM has recently assessed the status of its species and habitats according to modified IUCN criteria and leading to Red Lists of species and habitats for the Baltic (HELCOM 2013). 

The Intersessional Correspondence Group on the Coordination of Biodiversity Assessment and Monitoring (ICG-COBAM) is responsible for the coordination of OSPAR's biodiversity assessment and monitoring work under the guidance of the Biodiversity Committee, with a particular focus on the requirements of the MSFD in relation to biodiversity aspects. In March 2015, ICG COBAM adopted 15 common biodiversity indicators (3 for mammals, 2 for Birds, none for turtles, 2 for fish, 2 for benthic habitats, 2 for pelagic habitats, 2 for food webs, 1 common to pelagic and food webs, and 1 for non-indigenous species), all relevant for D1, but some also for D2, D4 or D6. These common indicators were tested in the 2014/2015 meeting cycle. Relevant common indicators will deliver to OSPAR's Intermediate Assessment in 2017, which will be recommended to EU Members States, to be considered for the 2018 reporting of MSFD Article 8, 9 and, where feasible, article 10. Further, several candidate biodiversity indicators may be promoted to common indicators in the future. The ICG COBAM continues to work on improving regional coordination for assessing and monitoring biodiversity Descriptors under OSPAR.
The Contracting parties to the Barcelona Convention will gradually implement the Ecosystem Approach (EcAp) to the management of human activities in the Mediterranean, aiming to attain 'A healthy Mediterranean with marine and coastal ecosystems that are productive and biologically diverse for the benefit of present and future generations' by May 2015. One of the three main goals of this approach is to preserve and restore marine biodiversity in the region. Indicators and monitoring programmes to support the 11 Ecological Objectives of the EcAp, including biodiversity objectives similar to those of the MSFD, are currently being developed; the process follows a similar approach to that of HELCOM and OSPAR, notably through the Integrated Correspondence Groups of GES and Targets (CORGEST) and the Correspondence Group on Monitoring (CORMON) Biodiversity and Fisheries. These recent groups work on issues relating to D1, D2, D3, D4 and D6. 

With regard to the Black Sea, the policy on biodiversity is outlined in two key legally binding documents: the Black Sea Biodiversity and Landscape Conservation Protocol 2002 (BSBLCP), which entered into force in 2011, and the Black Sea Strategic Action Plan (BSSAP, 2009) for the environmental protection and rehabilitation of the Black Sea. The purpose of the BSBLCP is 'to maintain the Black Sea ecosystem in good ecological state and its landscape in favourable conditions, to protect, to preserve and to sustainably manage the biological and landscape diversity of the Black Sea in order to enrich the biological resources'. This Protocol stipulates a number of regional measures that are consistent with D1 'biodiversity is maintained'. Towards this goal, in 2014, the contracting states were required to 'adopt a list of species of Black Sea importance that may be threatened or important by reason of their role in ecosystem functioning or other significance for the region'. The listed species 'will be subject to special measures'. The regional states 'shall adopt a list of important landscapes and habitats of the Black Sea that may be threatened of destruction, or important by their nature, cultural or historical value, which constitute the natural, historical and cultural heritage or present other significance for the Black Sea region'. In addition to BSBLCP provisions, the BSSAP determines the 'Conservation of Black Sea Biodiversity and Habitats' as the second of four Ecosystem quality objectives (ECOQOs) towards achieving the overall long-term desired ecosystem state called 'Vision for the Black Sea'. A couple of sub-objectives are formulated with regard to native biodiversity: EcoQO 2a - Reduce the risk of extinction of threatened species, and EcoQO 2b - Conserve coastal and marine habitats and landscapes. The management targets defined to achieve the EcoQOs of BSSAP are conceptually equivalent to the 'operational targets' sensu MSFD for GES achievement.