A piece of software, developed by AZTI-Tecnalia, the R+D centre that specialises in marine and food technology research, has become the most widely used method employed by European countries for assessing the ecological status of seabed fauna. This tool is in official use in eleven European countries, and enables the ecological status of coasts and estuaries anywhere in the world to be evaluated on the basis of seabed samples. The software has data on over 6,000 seabed animal species from the entire planet, and this fact has enabled it to make its influence widely felt internationally.
The tool developed by AZTI-Tecnalia, which can be downloaded free of charge from http://ambi.azti.es, is contributing towards determining the quality of the marine environment worldwide, and constitutes a tool of great use in the fight against marine and shoreline pollution. It goes by the name of AMBI (Azti’s Marine Biotic Index) and has another version known as the M-AMBI, specifically adapted to the European Water Framework Directive. The latter is in official use in Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria and Romania. The other version is in official use in Denmark, Great Britain, Ireland, Portugal and Slovenia. The two methods have been developed by a team led by Ángel Borja, who holds a PhD in Biology and is a member of Azti-Tecnalia’s Marine Research Division.
The usefulness of AMBI has spread beyond the European ambit, and right now the United States, Chile and China are looking into the possibility of using it officially. The WWF-World Wildlife Fund is also proposing the AMBI system as one of the indicators for the monitoring of salmon farms worldwide, as it is regarded as an effective tool for detecting the impact that this activity is having on the marine environment and for implementing the necessary corrections.
Some countries are also looking into the possibility of using AMBI and M-AMBI in the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive, since both have been developed bearing in mind the broad range of human pressures on the marine environment; like wastewater discharges, dredging work, infrastructure, aggregate extraction or aquaculture facilities. The two tools have given rise to countless publications, scientific reports and PhD theses in over thirty countries worldwide.
Added value for the environmental study of benthos
AMBI and M-AMBI bring significant added value to the environmental study of benthos (fauna that inhabit the sea bed) as they are capable of evaluating their status and level of alteration, which enables highly useful data to be obtained in the fight against marine and shoreline pollution.
To assess benthic status, the AMBI method is based on calculating the proportions existing in five environmental groups: species sensitive to pollution, species indifferent to pollution, tolerant and first- and second-order opportunistic species (ones that develop more in altered locations). The researchers take samples from the seabed, and the software classifies each of the species collected in terms of which of these five groups they belong to. The AMBI software is particularly accurate in this selection since it has records of over 6,000 animal species from seas all over the world; it also indicates which of the ecological groups mentioned they belong to.
To download the tool: http://ambi.azti.es/