Fragile sponge and anthozoan communities on subtidal rocky habitats

Large colonies of sponges, anemones and sea-fans growing on rocks in shallow water

Fragile sponge and anthozoan communities on subtidal rocky habitats © Keith HiscockAnthozoans are a group of soft animals with feathery tentacles, which includes soft corals, sea-fans, cup corals and anemones.  Members of this group can be found together with branching sponges on steeply sloping bedrock or large boulders in depths from about 50m to just below low tide. 

These sponge and anthozoan communities require sufficient water movement to bring a ready supply of food but not too much, as they are vulnerable to breakage.  As a result, they are found on shores which are exposed to moderate or strong waves and possibly quite strong tidal currents, but only in areas of those shores where there is some local shelter from the full force of the waves and tides.

The communities of animals that live here are dominated by large, slow growing species such as branching sponges and sea-fans. 

Beneath these large colonies of animals, there is a rich under-storey of sea squirts, including the lightbulb sea squirt, and sea mats, such as the ross coral, with it’s hard, orange, crinkly ‘petals’.

For the official habitat definition please see the documents listed below.

 

European distribution

This community is present around England’s south-west peninsula from west Dorset to Lundy Island, and also off the south-east coast of Ireland.

 

Conservation status/need

Fragile sponge and anthozoan communities on subtidal rocky habitats fact

 

Official definition

UK Biodiversity Action Plan; Priority Habitat Descriptions. BRIG (ed. Ant Maddock) 2008 (updated December 2011)

 

Further information

JNCC - UK BAP Priority Species and Habitats

JNCC EUNIS habitat correlations table