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MESH - Survey Scoping Tool


The MESH (Mapping European Seabed Habitats) project aimed to promote harmonised production and use of marine habitat maps covering the North Western European seas by adapting and enhancing previous achievements in this area. It involved the collation of habitat mapping information across several countries, including Belgium, France, Ireland, Netherlands, UK as well as acquisition of new data in MPAs in each country. The MESH Project developed an interactive Survey Scoping Tool designed to be used  for each element of a mapping programme (broad, intermediate and fine scale) an will assist in the compilation of a full Scoping Report. 


Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Coherence with other processes:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What tools are available for a particular survey based on its purpose, objectives and type of information required?
  • What are the different types of survey strategy available? 

Implementation Context

The increased need for management of marine resources creates a substantial demand for intertidal and subtidal seabed habitat maps. This demand has been met by numerous seabed mapping and sampling studies in recent years, mostly in relation to specific development proposals, licence applications or the designation of protected areas. The lack of co-ordination between studies or an agreed standard survey process has resulted in inconsistent data at a sea basin scale. To combat this the MESH project developed a set of internationally agreed standards and protocols for habitat mapping in addition to a set of tools, including the survey scoping tool which is designed to assists the survey planning stage to help assure a project can deliver a final map with the desired confidence rating. One such tool was the MESH Scoping tool which is delivered as an interactive Flash ® animation designed to be used to each element within a mapping programme and assist in the compilation of a Scoping Report.  

Aspects / Objectives 

The scoping tool guides you through a series of prompts asking you to consider the purpose of the survey, factors that will affect the amount of survey effort required and how different survey and environmental conditions will affect the suitability of various survey tools that may be available. The key aims / outputs of the tool are: 

  • To provide a summary table highlighting one or more potential survey strategies
  • To ensure that each element of the mapping programme is properly balanced and you are not anticipating too much or too little from the map or the data the survey might provide


The scoping tool can broadly be divided into three sections, designed to explore the overall scope and purpose of the survey; the likely effort that will be required to complete this task and finally a requirement to take into consideration the environmental conditions which are likely to be encountered when undertaking the survey. 

Tab 1 – Purpose of the Survey

The first section of the tool asked users to consider the overall scope of the survey, selecting options from a number of buttons which outline various options (see figure below)

Figure 1: Purpose of the survey tab - MESH Scoping Tool

Tab2 – Likely survey effort required

The second section of the tool considers criteria about the mapping exercise that affect the likely survey effort required. Potential mismatches and the likely level of effort required to complete the survey are also indicated. 

The following criteria are considered in this section of the tool: 

  • Survey area size
  • Map scale
  • Map resolution
  • Spatial resolution (tolerance)
  • Accuracy of habitat classes (by selecting EUNIS level)
  • Level of habitat detail
  • Physiography

Tab 3 – Environmental

Figure 2: Environmental tab: MESH Scoping Tool

The third section in the tool asks you to consider the environmental and other conditions likely to be met during the survey. Adjusting the slide bars will show how these conditions are likely to affect the suitability of a range of survey tools and techniques.

Main Outputs / Results

The main output of the tool provides a printable summary of all choices made with regarding to the scope and purpose of the survey. Tools / equipment that would be useful in conducting the survey are listed along with helpful summary comments.

Figure 3: MESH Scoping Tool Summary

The tool is not intended to provide a definitive answer, but to help users consider the scope of the mapping programme and what can be realistically achieved within each of the broad, intermediate and fine scale elements.


Whilst this tool was produced by funding from a North-West European funded project it could be used in any sea basin. 

Responsible Entities

Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)

IFREMER – Institut français de recherche pout l’exploitationde la mer

University of Gent

Marine Institute

IMARES (formerly Alterra-Texel)

TNO - Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)

Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) (formerly DARD)

Natural England

Envision Mapping Ltd

National Museum Wales (NMW)

British Geological Survey (BGS)

Costs / Funding Source

INTERREG IIIB North-West Europe area 

€ 8.106.708