- The UK Clean Seas Environment Monitoring Programme (CSEMP), formerly the National Marine Monitoring Programme (NMMP)
The stimulus to erect a national AQC scheme for benthic community analysis was the evolution of the UK National Marine Monitoring Plan (NMMP) in 1991, which itself was conceived as the UK contribution to the international programme of the Monitoring Master Plan of the North Sea Task Force. The objectives of the plan were to examine, initially spatial and secondly temporal, trends in physico-chemical parameters and in benthic community data of estuaries and coasts around the UK in relation to pollution.
- The plan was initiated in 1992/93 with the NMMP undertaken by a variety of agencies and laboratories around the UK, contributing to a national database held by the UK Environment Agency. The plan embraced the concept of Quality Assurance and Analytical Quality Control both for chemistry and biology and required a national co-ordinated programme for QA and AQC. For the biological aspect, this prompted the development of a new National Marine Biological AQC Coordinating Committee in 1992/3 reporting to the Marine Pollution Monitoring Management Group (MPMMG).
The NMBAQC committee was given the task of erecting and managing a UK national scheme which commenced in 1994/95. The scheme initially focused on benthic infaunal invertebrate communities monitored under NMMP and addressed biological determinands relating to taxonomy, specimen enumeration, biomass determination and particle size analysis. While the NMBAQC scheme originally aimed at problems within laboratories contributing to the NMMP database, other marine labs and consultancies recognised the value of such a scheme and signed up as participants.
In 2006 the NMMP programme was renamed CSEMP (Clean Seas Environment Monitoring Programme).
To find out more about CSEMP: http://www.cefas.co.uk/publications/scientific-series/green-book.aspx
The Biological Effects Quality Assurance in Monitoring Programmes (BEQUALM) project was initiated in 1998 as a European Union funded research programme. This aimed to develop appropriate quality standards for a wide range of biological effects techniques and devise a method for monitoring compliance of laboratories generating data from these techniques for national and international monitoring programmes. The ultimate goal of this programme was to develop a Quality Assurance (QA) system for biological effects techniques which would be self-financing on the basis of fees recovered from participants. These would cover three major fields: Whole Organism Analysis, Biomarker Analysis, and Community Analysis.
The research programme, completed in 2002, incorporated nine different projects including intercalibration exercises and training workshops on benthic community analysis and phytoplankton assemblage analysis. The benthic community workpackage was led by the Institut für Meereskunde (IfM), Kiel, Germany, and the phytoplankton analysis workpackage was led by the Forschungs und Technologie Zentrum Westküste, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU) (Büsum, Germany).
In 2003 BEQUALM adopted the UK NMBAQC scheme as a model to progress the Community Analysis component and launched their full quality assurance programme in 2004 covering Whole Organism, Biomarker, and Community Analysis. With the NMBAQC now nested within BEQUALM Community Analysis, the NMBAQC committee took on the task of offering the services of the established UK scheme for benthic invertebrate community analysis to other European countries. The BEQUALM phytoplankton workpackage initially comprised two parts: chlorophyll analysis and community analysis. The former was taken forward by QUASIMEME, whilst from 2005, the latter has been re-launched (initially for UK/Eire participants), through the NMBAQC Scheme via the Marine Institute at Galway. The biomarker analysis was further developed by NIVA, Norway and is not part of the NMBAQC scheme. BEQUALM was officially closed in January 2014. The Community Analysis component will continue to be run by NMBAQC.
The Water Framework Directive.
The implementation of new Europe-wide legislation (i.e. the Water Framework Directive, WFD), requires all member states of the European Union to monitor the ecological status of inland and coastal waters from 2007. Member states are required to develop and inter-calibrate appropriate ecological assessment tools for each of the ecological quality elements: phytoplankton, macrophytes, invertebrates, and fish and to commence WFD monitoring programmes fro defined water bodies. Classification schemes must also be initiated to categorise defined water bodies into one of five bands (High, Good, Moderate, Poor, Bad) with the objective of achieving reaching "good status" in all waters by 2015.
It is recognised that rigorous quality control of ecological data is essential to this process and the UK government now requires all competent monitoring authorities, as well as contractors supplying data to government agencies, to be members of the BEQUALM/NMBAQC scheme, or an equivalent quality assurance scheme. In order to meet these objectives and associated QA/QC requirements, the NMBAQC Scheme, as well as continuing the benthic infauna and phytoplankton components, is developing additional modules to facilitate WFD monitoring, e.g. epibiota, transitional water fish and macroalgae.
To find out more about WFD: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/water/wfd/index.htm
In 2016 a name change for the N in NMBAQC from National to NE Atlantic was agreed by the Marine Assessment and Reporting Group (MARG) and Healthy and Biologically Diverse Seas Evidence Group (HBDSEG) to reflect the wider scope for NMBAQC. Participants from Europe have been active in the scheme already, and the change from UK "National" to "North East Atlantic" reflects this participation level.