The National Marine Biological Analytical Quality Control Scheme
The National Marine Biological Analytical Quality Control Scheme nmbaqcs image

Benthic Imagery Action Plan

The Benthic Imagery Action Plan provides a strategic framework to carry out necessary improvements to a wide range of imagery analysis standards in the UK. The Action Plan collates and streamlines the recommendations from The Big Picture Workshop into 87 tasks and organises them into seven coherent workflows. This framework is focused on maximising the potential of benthic imagery within the marine biodiversity conservation community of the UK, although improvements may be equally applicable to other users of benthic imagery. A collaborative working approach is proposed in this Action Plan, to maximise the use of available knowledge, resources and technology across organisations. 


Under the governance of the NMBAQC, the Action Plan lays out a ‘road map’ for collaborating organisations to follow for the next five years, encompassing the immediate needs for method improvement and standardisation. However, this Action Plan should also be considered as a ‘live’ and developing process, rather than a static document. In this way  the development and incorporation of emergent technologies may be introduced to the benthic imagery workflows in future. A working group, The Big Picture Group, has been set up to tackle tasks in the Action Plan and a facilitator, The Action Plan Coordinator, appointed to manage working collaborations of the Big Picture Group. 

Action Plan resources:

The Big Picture Group (Benthic Imagery Working Group for NMBAQC) 


The ‘Big Picture Group’ is made up of many experts with experience in various aspects of benthic imagery acquisition and analysis. Collectively, they also represent interests from a range of organisations across the UK, including government, research and academia, and private consultancies. They have an interest in working collaboratively to tackle common benthic imagery issues through carrying out Action Plan tasks, maintaining contact and progress via an online communications platform, hosted by JNCC. The group can be contacted for advice and expertise through the Action Plan Co-ordinator role (currently JNCC).

The Big Picture - Benthic Imagery Analysis Workshop (March 2019)

A UK benthic imagery workshop, ‘The Big Picture’, was held in March 2019 to bring together key stakeholders from different organisations and disciplines across the UK, with a view to solving the key issues around benthic imagery data. Fifty participants shared knowledge and experience during the three-day workshop, building a common picture of the issues, opportunities, ideas and possible actions to better harness the potential of benthic imagery by improving analysis techniques, data use and method standardisation. Workshop participants agreed to appoint a cross-organisation task and finish group, the Plan Development Group (PDG), to develop a Benthic Imagery Action Planfor the UK, based on the recommendations from the workshop.

The Benthic Imagery Action Plan

This Action Plan provides a strategic framework to carry out necessary improvements to a wide range of imagery analysis standards in the UK. A key purpose of the Action Plan is to streamline the improvements into coherent workflows, so that national resources are used more efficiently. This 'Action Plan Tracker' spreadsheet provides a means of recording progress towards tasks and as a tool to enable better planning between organisations interested in carrying out tasks from the Action Plan. A static copy is published here on the NMBAQC website and a 'live' copy is maintained by the Action Plan Coordinator of the Big Picture Group.  

Framework for Benthic Imagery Purposes (under development)

The aim of this framework is to encourage the use and development of common data collection, analysis and management standards for similar uses of benthic imagery, i.e. to better meet the purposes behind the uses of benthic imagery. By working within this framework, organisations should be able to create more comparable data products from benthic imagery, improving data quality and enabling more successful data sharing when their purposes are similar. 

The initial framework proposed here was developed by JNCC with the help of many organisations in the Big Picture Group. It should serve as a guide that provides us a ‘live’ framework for the active and continued development of common benthic imagery standards. The NMBAQC anticipate this is beginning of a large body of work with the overall aim of developing much improved standards across the UK, and wherever else these are useful. As an ongoing process, when new standards are needed and subsequently developed, they should be added to this framework to benefit all users equally. 

The NMBAQC will very much need the support and participation of benthic imagery users to continue the development of standards that must be sensible, cost-effective to implement and flexible enough to incorporate future developments in technology. As one standard will not fit all purposes, they must also be tailored to fit the myriad of different purposes for which the benthic imagery is used in the UK, and beyond. Future development of the framework will be coordinated by the Action Plan Coordinator of the Big Picture Group.