Background to the NMBAQC scheme

The NMBAQC scheme was set up in 1994 to provide quality control and assurance to the macrobenthic invertebrate elements of the Clean Seas Environmental Monitoring Programme (formerly the NMMP).

Logo of NMBAQC scheme

Its principal aim is to provide assessment of marine biological data contributing to UK national or European monitoring programmes. It also aims to develop and promote best practice in relation to sampling and analysis procedures through a range of training exercises, workshops and literature guides.

Two members of APEM’s team authored the current NMBAQC guidance for the processing of marine macrobenthic invertebrate samples.

How the NMBAQC scheme works

The performance of all the participants is summarised in various bulletins and reports. In some exercises participant samples are selected and assessed against scheme standards to determine whether sample batches achieve acceptable quality.

Participating labs are issued annually with a Statement of Performance certificate.

Membership of the scheme continues to grow each year and its exercises are continually assessed by the NMBAQC committee to ensure that they are fit for purpose and offer value for money.

Participants include laboratories from competent monitoring authorities (CMA) in the UK – the Environment Agency, SEPA, Cefas, AFBI, DAERA-NI) – the conservation agencies represented by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, and a number of independent environmental consultancies.

The benthic invertebrate component of the NMBAQC scheme concentrates on the processing and analysis of marine benthic macrobiotic samples, which could be cores or grabs, from marine or estuarine waters.

  • Close up of sample from NMBAQC scheme
  • Close up of sample from NMBAQC scheme
  • Close up of lab sample from NMBAQC scheme
  • Close up of sample from NMBAQC scheme

APEM’s role in the NMBAQC scheme

The modules managed by APEM include bi-annual Ring Test exercises, Own Samples, and Laboratory Reference.

These modules are used both as training exercises and for assessment of a laboratory’s performance. All CMA’s, and their contracting laboratories, undertaking statutory marine monitoring programmes – for example, Clean Seas Environmental Monitoring Programme and Water Framework Directive (WFD) – are required to participate in the NMBAQC scheme.

These laboratories must achieve targets for their data before it can be submitted to DEFRA’s MERMAN database.

The particle size component comprises the analysis by participants of four pre-determined samples, usually including a mud, a gravel and two mixed sediments; additionally there is an ‘own sample’ exercise requiring participants to submit samples analysed in-house for re-analysis.

If you have any queries, please contact David Hall, head of laboratories.
Alternatively you can email us here. Or call 0161 42 8938.