The marine area off the Manicouagan Peninsula has been targeted as a future Marine Protected Area (MPA) to conserve and protect this productive and diverse maritime space. The Science Directorate of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been requested to provide managers of the MPA (Regional Ecosystems Management Branch) a recommendation for ecological monitoring protocols for this area. The monitoring design was based on first defining the ecological components that should be monitored to ensure that conservation objectives for the MPA have been met. The biological components that were selected for monitoring are those that have been recognized as being important in terms of productivity and biodiversity, and representative of the MPA. One of the components judged to be of great importance is the benthic community, which was targeted because its components are permanent residents of the MPA. As knowledge of these communities was almost nonexistent, sampling campaigns were conducted from 2006 to 2008 to characterize them and determine how they vary spatially within the MPA. The results of these studies delineated four distinct zones serve as the basis of the proposed monitoring protocol. Twenty-five sampling stations are determined, including twenty-one that cover the first two zones – those that are characterized as having the greatest diversity and productivity. These stations will be sampled annually using an IKU benthic grab and using remote imaging (underwater photos and video). Measures of abundance and biomass of species identified at each station will be used to monitor benthic assemblages in the MPA. Abiotic variables are also to be monitored so that performance indicators may be better interpreted.
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