AMBI, AZTI’s tool for the ecological assessment of the marine environment, is being used as a worldwide reference approach

Photo of author

By Milthon Lujan

Pasaia, Spain.- Throughout its history AZTI has developed diverse methods for the assessment of the ecological and environmental status of the marine environment. Among these, the AMBI and M-AMBI (multivariate-AMBI) tools stand out today to determine the status of soft-bottom fauna. Both tools, which stand out worldwide compared to others, explore how the marine communities and quality respond to natural and human changes (such as climate change or activities like discharges or dredging, for example), integrating environmental conditions in the long term.

Nowadays, the combination of a rapid growth in the population, associated with industrialisation and urbanisation have led to a gradual increase in the pressure on the seas of different countries. The urbanisation of the catchments has produced changes in the use of land, which has gone from being rural to become residential or industrial areas, which has led to an increase in urban discharges and an accumulation of toxic substances.

In recent years, programmes and strategies have been developed to minimise the contamination and the amount of waste, fostering greater social awareness of the need to protect the aquatic systems. However, there are still many places where urban, agricultural and industrial discharges are one of the main threats to water quality and the coastal biodiversity. It is therefore essential to know the ecological and environmental status of our seas. For this reason, the new European regulations (Water Framework Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive) highlight the importance of biological indicators.

In order to establish the ecological quality of the coasts and estuaries, AZTI research staff, coordinated by Dr. Ángel Borja, developed the AMBI Index (AZTI´s Marine Biotic Index) and the M-AMBI tool, an international reference which is used to assess the quality of the seabed communities.

See also  Feeding farm animals seaweed could help fight antibiotic resistance and climate change

Both tools explore the response of the communities to natural and human changes to the water quality. integrating environmental conditions in the long term. Furthermore, the latest version 5.0 of AMBI includes a list with almost 8,400 species, representative of all the seas in the world.

The AMBI and M-AMBI tools are used in many places worldwide, including on all of the continents: New Zealand, China, Mexico, Canada, Chile, Morocco, Algeria, Iran, Arabia, India, the whole of Europe… Furthermore, following the publication of an article in the prestigious Ecological Indicators journal on the adaptation and application of M-AMBI in the coastal waters of the United States, the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)is currently evaluating the official use of this tool as the sole index for the assessment of all its seas (Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific).

An inspiring tool

Having recommenced mass use of status assessment tools in 2000, AMBI (AZTI’s Marine Biotic Index) has served as inspiration for other indices.

Applicable sectors

– Public administrations and environmental agencies.

– Marine energy, mining, aquaculture, chemical and oil companies.


– Knowledge and distribution forecasts of the impact that your business may have, minimising it before it happens by selection of the most appropriate location, size, etc.

– Calculation of the loading capacity for a place (e.g. for aquaculture) to avoid impact.

– Compliance with legislation in force that requires the determination of the ecological status.

– Compliance with port dredging management recommendations.

More information at: http://ambi.azti.es 

Leave a Comment