Angel Borja talks with
ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about
this month's Fast Breaking Paper in the field of Plant
& Animal Science. The author has also sent along
images of thier work.
Article Title: Using historical data, expert
judgement and multivariate analysis in assessing reference
conditions and benthic ecological status, according to the
European Water Framework Directive
Journal: MAR POLLUT BULL
* AZTI Tecnalia, Div Marine Res, Herrera
Kaia,Portualdea,Z-G, Pasaia 20110, Spain.
(addresses have been truncated)
Why do you think your paper is highly
In 2000 we developed and published in Marine Pollution Bulletin an
index of quality—a Marine Biotic Index (AMBI)—which has since
been applied to different anthropogenic impacts in many geographical
areas—throughout the European Union, Uruguay, Brazil, Morocco,
Algeria, Tunisia, China, the USA, Mexico, Canada, Turkey, Indonesia,
Greenland, Reunion Island, etc.
Together with this paper we decided to develop free software which made it
easier to calculate and to represent the index, which probably has helped
to spread the use of the AMBI index.
Science IndicatorsSM from
selected this paper as a Fast Moving Front article in
The increasing need in Europe to find environmental tools able to assess
marine quality led us to adapt our methodology in detecting anthropogenic
impacts upon marine benthic communities to the European Water Framework
Directive (WFD). This legislation requires the use of good methodologies in
detecting such impacts. The ease of use in applying our methodology, along
with its reliability for research investigation, makes this approach quite
useful and, subsequently, the paper is highly cited.
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge?
Yes, we proposed a new methodology (M-AMBI or multivariate AMBI), based
upon previous findings, such as the AMBI index, but also in our previous
investigations in assessing physico-chemical quality in marine
waters—see Bald et al., "Assessing reference conditions and
physico-chemical status according to the European Water Framework
Directive: A case-study from the Basque Country (Northern Spain),"
Marine Pollution Bulletin 50 (12): 1508-22, 2005.
Here, we include AMBI, together with two structural parameters (richness
and Shannon diversity—an index which is commonly used to characterize
species diversity in a community) into a factor analysis, which permits, in
a simple way, the assessment of marine and estuarine benthic quality. This
allows scientists to readily show the quality of a specific location to
policymakers and stakeholders.
Would you summarize the significance of your paper in
The M-AMBI offers a "pollution or disturbance classification" of a
particular site, representing the soft-bottom benthic community "health,"
assessing the ecological status of a location, following the WFD. This is
very important in terms of management of marine habitats and also in
assessing the ecological and environmental status of marine ecosystems in
How did you become involved in this research and were
there any particular problems encountered along the way?
Authors - left to right:
Iñigo Muxika, Angel Borja, and Juan
My background, as senior leader of the group, is in benthic ecology, and,
at AZTI, I have been involved for many years in marine monitoring and
ecological assessment. One of the problems we faced was related to the
absence of ecological tools with which to determine and illustrate, in a
simple way, the impact on marine systems. We need these tools both for
marine monitoring and marine environmental impact assessment.
I was supervisor of the Ph.D. thesis of Iñigo Muxika, who
participated in these investigations, and the subject of this paper was one
of the findings within his thesis. This research team, together with the
AZTI's team involved in the WFD implementation, decided to develop
different methodologies in order to help other scientists with the task of
making complicated biological data accessible to stakeholders, M-AMBI for
benthic communities being one of the results.
Where do you see your research leading in the
We are trying to improve the methodology, specifically relating to
reference conditions in estuarine waters, and also the development of new
methods, applicable to hard-bottom substrata as well as to other elements
of the ecosystem, such as physico-chemical, chemical, phytoplankton,
macroalgae, and fishes. Moreover, we are investigating and publishing
integrative approaches while including all these aspects into a unique
assessment of water bodies.
Do you foresee any social or political implications for
Yes, this research is being applied to the implementation of the WFD. Many
European countries have officially adopted this methodology in their marine
assessments, or have adapted it to their particular needs. Moreover, it has
been intercalibrated with other methods in Europe and the USA, with very
Dr. Ángel Borja
Marine Research Division
Pasaia, Spain Web
Keywords: marine biotic index, european water framework
directive, assessment of marine and estuarine benthic quality,
anthropogenic impacts upon marine benthic communities, benthic ecology,
management of marine habitats, ecological and environmental status of
marine ecosystems in europe.