Report 405
Defining and managing Sabellaria spinulosa reefs: Report of an inter-agency workshop 1-2 May, 2007
(2007)
Gubbay, S.
Online only
JNCC invited representatives from a range of organisations to a workshop in Peterborough on the 1-2 May, 2007 to discuss the identification, management and monitoring of Sabellaria spinulosa reefs.

Executive Summary

 
 
 
 
JNCC brought together representatives from a range of organisations working on Sabellaria spinulosa to a workshop in Peterborough on the 1-2 May, 2007. The aims of the workshop were to: 
 
  • Exchange information on current research relating to Sabellaria spinulosa reefs and the requirements for their conservation under the Habitats Directive.
  • Elaborate a definition of Sabellaria spinulosa reefs which can be used by JNCC and the Country Agencies in relation to implementing the Habitats Directive in UK waters.
  • Discuss issues relevant to the management of Sabellaria spinulosa reefs and identify potential areas of future research to support the definition, management and monitoring of Sabellaria spinulosa reefs in the context of the Habitats Directive.
 
The simplest definition of Sabellaria spinulosa reef in the context of the Habitats Directive was considered to be an area of Sabellaria spinulosa which is elevated from the seabed and has a large spatial extent. Colonies may be patchy within an area defined as reef and show a range of elevations. In UK waters elevations created by worm tubes of up to 30cm have been recorded and spatial extents of more than 1km².
 
In seeking to provide greater guidance, workshop participants tried to put some figures on the characteristics of elevation, area and patchiness which could be used in combination to determine whether an area might qualify as a reef (Table 4).
 
NB. These figures are presented as a starting point for wider discussion rather than accepted and fully agreed thresholds for Sabellaria spinulosa reef identification.  
 
Further appreciation of the quality of the reef can be determined by using a scoring system for a range of characteristics. These characteristics include elevation, extent and patchiness but could also cover sediment consolidation, density, associated biodiversity and longevity. Development of this approach, for example, with supporting guidance or perhaps an indication of relative weighting of the different characteristics, could be very useful as a second stage in the process of identifying suitable areas of Sabellaria spinulosa reef for protection within Natura 2000 sites.
 
A variety of survey methodologies and tools can be used to detect, map, sample and monitor Sabellaria spinulosa reefs. Guidance on what is most appropriate will depend on the definition (and therefore parameters which need to be measured) and what is practical under particular environmental conditions.
 
The focus of management is likely to be on the activities which could have an impact on Sabellaria spinulosa reefs; however, given that environmental conditions are a major influence (e.g. sediment loads, presence of sand waves and drop offs), a holistic approach to management will be required. Management proposals also need to reflect the dynamic nature of reefs which can colonise, evolve and degrade rapidly. This is well illustrated by studies showing their natural temporal and spatial variation. Risk assessments and management plans can be used to set out the procedures which will assist with the management of Sabellaria spinulosa reefs. 
 
There are many potential areas for future research on Sabellaria spinulosa to inform Natura 2000 work. Of the list drawn up at the workshop the highest priority was considered to be work on:
 
  • How reefs form, evolve and decay and a better understanding of the environmental conditions under which they do so.
  • Controlled experiments to inform management decisions such as the establishment of closed areas.
  • Creating an inventory of possible areas of Sabellaria spinulosa reef in UK waters.
 
 
 
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ISSN 0963-8091
 
Please cite as: Gubbay, S., (2007), Defining and managing Sabellaria spinulosa reefs: Report of an inter-agency workshop 1-2 May, 2007, Online only, JNCC Report 405, ISSN 0963-8091