APEM runs two key elements of the prestigious NMBAQC scheme: benthic invertebrates and particle size analysis.

In 2014 APEM’s marine laboratories audited almost 270 samples and associated specimens, leading to 117 interim reports and four annual reports.

APEM aquatic scientist at microscope

Origins of the NMBAQC scheme

In order to monitor and assess the marine environment, regulators and scientists require high quality data. In the early 1990s they recognised a need to ensure that the many laboratories across Europe carrying out benthic analysis were working to similar, consistent standards.

NMBAQC Scheme Logo

The North-East Atlantic Marine Biological Analytical Quality Control scheme was set up in 1994 to provide quality control and assurance to the macrobenthic invertebrate elements of the Clean Seas Environmental Monitoring Programme. It aims to provide assessment of marine biological data contributing to UK national or European monitoring programmes.

Almost 50 laboratories from across Europe now take part in the scheme, including the Environment Agency, SEPA, CEFAS, Marine Scotland, AFBI, DAERA-NI, JNCC and a number of independent environmental consultancies.

Our role in the NMBAQC scheme

In 2014 APEM took on responsibility for two elements of the scheme: benthic invertebrates and particle size analysis. Sixty-four sediment replicate samples were circulated to 16 laboratories and a total of 1,075 invertebrate samples circulated to 22 laboratories.

  • NMBAQC Scheme 1
  • NMBAQC Scheme 2
  • NMBAQC Scheme 3
  • NMBAQC Scheme 4

In total 24 sediment samples, 147 laboratory reference specimens and 96 macrobenthic samples were supplied to APEM for expert auditing and verification.

Carol Milner, APEM’s benthic invertebrate component administrator, explained:

“The NMBAQC scheme is very prestigious and we were delighted to bring it to APEM.

“But when we won the contract in 2014 the committee instructed us to bring the annual exercises and reporting within the financial year calendar as soon as possible, by gradually reducing the overrun of analysis and reporting that had developed over previous years.”

APEM achieved this objective for both the particle size analysis and benthic invertebrate components less than 24 months into the contract.

The Results

  • Over 140 laboratory reference specimens audited by APEM each year.
  • Approximately 100 macrobenthic samples audited by APEM each year.
  • Components of the scheme run by APEM were brought back on schedule after just two years.
  • Performance of the participants is summarised in various bulletins and reports.
  • Participating labs are issued annually with a Statement of Performance.
  • Membership in the scheme continues to grow year on year.