PLEASE NOTE: The North-east Faroe-Shetland Channel NCMPA and Wyville-Thomson Ridge SAC survey is visiting this site in October 2017 to capture live video footage and images from a camera. This will inform how best to protect this unique area and the animals that live within it.

Wyville-Thomson Ridge MPA

 

Status: Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

 

The Wyville-Thomson Ridge is a rocky plateau situated in the Atlantic Ocean to the north-eastern part of the Rockall Trough.

 

The Wyville-Thomson Ridge is composed of extensive areas of stony reef interspersed with gravel areas and bedrock reef along its flanks, and supports diverse biological communities representative of hard substratum in deep water including a range of sponges; stylasterid, cup and soft corals; brachiopods; bryozoans; dense beds of featherstars and brittlestars; sea urchins, sea cucumbers and sea spiders. The stony reef is thought to have been formed by the ploughing movement of icebergs through the seabed at the end of the last ice age.

 

More detailed site information can be found on the Summary tab.

 

Map displaying MPA boundary and

associated protected feature data.

Visit the JNCC MPA Mapper to further

view and explore data for this MPA.

 

Legislation behind the designation: EU Habitats Directive 1992 transposed into UK law by the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended)

 

Protected features

Features Feature Type Conservation Objectives
1170 Reefs Annex I Habitat* Restore to favourable condition

* For the latest Annex I habitat resource figures, please see the link to the latest Habitats Directive Article 17 reporting in the Assessment tab.

 

The acquisition of new data may result in updates to our knowledge on feature presence and extent within this site. The most up to date information is reflected on the map on this page and in JNCC’s MPA mapper and the evidence underpinning this can be viewed in the Evidence tab.

 

Conservation objectives
The overarching conservation objectives for the designated features of all protected sites in UK offshore waters is to ensure they either remain in, or reach favourable condition. The ability of a designated feature to remain in, or reach favourable condition can be affected by its sensitivity to pressures associated with activities taking place within or in close proximity to a protected site. Information on the conservation objectives relating to this SAC is provided in the Conservation Advice tab.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Wyville-Thomson Ridge SAC.  More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to the Wyville-Thomson Ridge SAC were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.  This Site Information Centre is the most up to date source of information for this MPA, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced. Information about the SAC site selection process is available on the JNCC SAC pages.

 

 



Summary

 

Last updated: October 2017

 

The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Relevant Documentation and incorporates any further information gathered since these documents were produced.

 

Site overview
The Wyville-Thomson Ridge is located on the Scottish continental shelf edge approximately 150km north west of Cape Wrath, and extends in a north westerly direction towards the Faeroe Bank. The Ridge divides the relatively warmer waters of the Rockall Trough from the relatively cooler waters of the Faroe-Shetland Channel, and is a transitional area between the two water masses.

 

The Wyville-Thomson Ridge is approximately 20km wide and 70km long and rises from over 1000m depth to less than 400m at the summit. The ridge is composed of extensive areas of stony reef interspersed with gravel areas and bedrock reef along its flanks. The stony reef is thought to have been formed by the ploughing movement of icebergs through the seabed at the end of the last ice age. These iceberg ‘ploughmarks’ consist of ridges of boulders, cobbles and gravel where finer sediments have been winnowed away by high energy currents at the site, interspersed with finer sediment troughs up to 10m deep.

 

The rock and stony reef areas in the site support diverse biological communities representative of hard substratum in deep water, including a range of sponges; stylasterid, cup and soft corals; brachiopods; bryozoans; dense beds of featherstars and brittlestars; sea urchins, sea cucumbers and sea spiders. Communities on the bedrock reef vary in species composition between the two sides of the ridge due to the influences of different water masses. This combination of water masses in one area is unique in UK waters. Further detail on the evidence for this SAC can be found on the Evidence tab.

 

Site location:  Coordinates for this SAC can be found in the Natura 2000 Standard Data Form listed in the Relevant Documentation.

Site area:  This site has an area of 1,740km2, slightly larger than the neighbouring Shetland Isles.

Site depth range: The site is on a ridge at the edge of the continental shelf, sitting at 310m, sloping down to its deepest at 1010m below sea level.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: The MPA spans the boundary between the Atlantic North-West Approaches, Rockall Trough and Faeroe/Shetland Channel region and the Scottish Continental Shelf region.

 

Site boundary description
The boundary for the Wyville-Thomson Ridge SAC is a simple polygon defined by whole degrees and minutes, fully enclosing the minimum area necessary to ensure protection of the Annex I reef of the site. Bottom trawling is a threat to the reef and, therefore, the proposed boundary includes a margin to allow for mobile gear on the seabed being at some distance from the location of a vessel at the sea surface.
 

Evidence

 

Last updated: October 2017

 

Site specific data
There is a range of data that underpin this SAC. The full overview of the data used to support site identification, along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the Wyville-Thomson Ridge SAC Selection Assessment. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to the Interactive MPA Mapper in due course. Some of the data for this SAC has been collected through JNCC funded or collaborative surveys and some through other means. Data from these surveys provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.


Survey and data gathering

  • Survey (2017) - Live video footage and images from a camera will allow the team to explore Wyville-Thomson Ridge and to inform how best to protect this unique area and the animals that live within it.  
  • Deep Links Project (2016) - A collaborative project between Plymouth University's Deep Sea CRU and University of Oxford, in partnership with JNCC and British Geological Survey, funded by NERC. During May and June 2016 the team undertook a 6 week research cruise in the North East Atlantic, including Wyville-Thomson Ridge, on board the RRS James Cook collecting data. This project aims to investigate the theory that populations at bathyal depths are more isolated because the currents that transport larvae decrease with depth.
  • Wyville-Thomson Ridge and Faroe-Shetland Channel Survey (2012) - This survey was a collaboration between JNCC and Marine Scotland Science. Video and camera imagery were collected to support evidence on the presence and extent of the Annex I reef feature of the Wyville-Thomson Ridge.
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Survey 7 (2006) - This survey was commissioned by the Department for Trade and Industry (now Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC))  as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) survey programme. This survey aboard the commercial research vessel Franklin, in which JNCC collaborated, collected acoustic and underwater imagery data from areas off the north and west coasts of Scotland including the Wyville-Thomson Ridge.
  • Atlantic Frontier Environmental Network (AFEN) (1996 - 2000) - Southampton’s National Oceanography Centre undertook large-scale sampling of the shelf edge and slope west of Shetland on behalf of the Department for Transport and Industry (now the Department for Energy and Climate Change) on a series of surveys undertaken between 1996 and 2000. These surveys, in which JNCC collaborated, helped characterise the geology, geomorphology and fauna on the Wyville-Thomson Ridge.
  • Towed Ocean Bottom Instrument (TOBI) surveys of the continental slope west of Shetland (1996/1998) -The National Oceanographic Centre (NOC) used sidescan sonar amongst other sampling methods to undertake a baseline environmental survey of the seafloor on the continental slope west of Shetland. This included the collection of extensive sidescan sonar data at the Wyville-Thomson Ridge.

 

Data analysis reports

 

Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the Wyville -Thomson Ridge SAC Selection Assessment. Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.

 

Knowledge gaps
If you are aware of any additional information not referred to in any of the Relevant Documentation, please contact JNCC.

 

Conservation Advice

 

Last updated October 2017

 

Conservation objectives set out the desired state for the protected features of an MPA. The conservation objectives for the protected feature of the Wyville-Thomson Ridge SAC has been set based on knowledge of the condition of the protected feature at the time of writing. Further information on feature condition and conservation objectives is provided in the Wyville-Thomson Ridge SAC Conservation Objectives and Advice on Operations.

 

This information is useful if you are:

  • Preparing Habitats Regulations Assessments (HRAs) of proposed plans or projects that may affect the site;
  • Planning measures to maintain or restore the site and its qualifying features;
  • Monitoring the condition of the qualifying features; and/or
  • Developing, proposing or assessing an activity, plan or project that may affect the site

 

The conservation objective for the protected feature at the MPA is subject to natural change, restore the Annex I reef features back to favourable condition, such that the:

  • Natural environmental quality is restored;
  • Natural environmental processes are maintained; and
  • Extent, physical structure, diversity, community structure and typical species representative of stony and bedrock reef in the Atlantic North-West Approaches, Rockall Trough and Faroe-Shetland Channel Regional Sea Region and Scottish Continental Shelf Region are restored.

 

JNCC is working to provide more detailed advice on the relatively broad, high level conservation objective listed above. This supplementary advice will be posted here as and when it becomes available.

 

Advice on operations
In line with Regulation (18) of the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended) which apply to the UK’s offshore marine area. The advice on operations for the protected feature of Wyville-Thomson Ridge SAC outline current knowledge of the nature and extent of activities taking place which may have a significant impact on the feature for which a site has been selected.

 

The advice on operations is based on JNCC’s scientific knowledge of the biological communities present at the time of writing and their sensitivities to pressures. For the most up-to-date information about the biological communities present within the site and their spatial distribution, please see the Evidence tab. Sensitivity information for biological communities identified within the site can also be found on MarLIN’s website.

 

JNCC also provides a list of activities occurring within the site and information on activity management is in the Activities and Management tab. This information is also useful when assessing an activity, plan or project which may affect the protected features and JNCC has provided this to aid the cumulative assessment of impacts of human activities within the site. While every attempt has been made to ensure this information is accurate and kept up-to-date, the list is not to be considered exhaustive or definitive. The list does not, for example, include activities occurring off-site which may also be capable of affecting the protected features.

 

The information contained within the advice on operations, Activities and Management tab, Evidence tab and MarLIN’s sensitivity assessments are useful if you are:

  • Carrying out any activity that may impact the site and need to find out how to operate within the law;
  • An authority providing advice on specific proposals; and/or
  • An authority responsible for putting management measures in place.

 

Our scientific understanding of the ecology of the site, its integrity and its qualifying features and how activities can affect them may change over time. JNCC’s conservation advice will be kept under review and will be periodically updated to reflect this and surveillance required under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive. Further information on JNCC's conservation advice is available via our offshore MPA conservation advice webpage.

 

Activities and Management

 

Last updated: October 2017

 

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed

 

Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals to the European Commission and ongoing site condition monitoring work will be required in order to conclude with confidence as to the degree to which the site is moving towards or achieving its conservation objectives.

 

This site forms part of the UK’s contribution to the OSPAR commission’s network of MPAs and the Emerald network established under the Bern Convention. As the UK is a member of the OSPAR commission, JNCC are committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is 'well-managed’ by 2020.

 

JNCC consider ‘well-managed’ to mean the timely progress of an MPA around the ‘MPA management cycle’. This involves:

  1. The documentation of appropriate management information - conservation objectives, advice on activities capable of affecting the protected features of a site, and spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected features of a site.
  2. The implementation of management measures - management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
  3. Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a site’s conservation objectives.
  4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives – using available information to infer whether or not a site is moving towards or has achieved its conservation objectives.

 

The sub-sections that follow provide an account of the progress of Wyville-Thomson Ridge SAC around each of the four stages in the MPA management cycle.

 

The documentation of appropriate management information

  • The conservation objectives and advice on activities capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected feature of this site are available under the conservation advice tab.
  • JNCC are in the process of improving our MPA conservation advice packages. Further information is available on our conservation advice pages.
  • Spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected feature of this MPA is available via JNCC’s MPA mapper.
  • JNCC are in the process of developing downloadable MPA data packages where appropriate permissions to share datasets are in place.

 

The implementation of management measures
This section details progress towards the implementation of management measures for activities considered capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected features of the site. The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and ‘licensable’ activities.

 

Fisheries

  • Activity is dominated by non-UK vessels, but demersal towed gears and static gears are used across the site both by UK and non-UK fleets.
  • The site falls outside the UK’s 12 nautical mile limit and is to be exclusively managed under the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In accordance with Article 18 of the revised CFP, requests for management will be developed jointly between the UK Government and any Member States with a direct management interest in the area affected.
  • Marine Scotland are the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to managing fishing activity. Further information on progress is available via Marine Scotland's webpages

 

Licensable activities

  • Whilst ‘licensable’ activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within Wyville-Thomson Ridge SAC at present, any future proposals would have to comply with Article 6(3) of the EU Habitats Directive 1992, which is transposed into UK law by the offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats& c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended).
  • Our conservation advice supports the consents process by setting out the conservation objectives for the protected feature of this MPA and advice on activities that may result in pressures to which the protected feature is considered sensitive.
  • Further information on JNCCs role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on JNCC's offshore industries advice webpage.

 

Telecommunications cables

  • Two telecommunications cables currently cross through the MPA.
  • Cables are largely an unregulated activity in offshore waters depending upon the type of cable being laid (or maintained), where it is being laid between and whether the cable is part of a larger development (which may be regulated). Any cable not directly associated with an energy installation does not require a marine license beyond 12 nautical miles.
  • JNCC encourages early discussion from operators regarding any plans related to new or existing cables, and encourages the undertaking of non-statutory environmental impact assessments for new or existing cable projects to assess their effect on the protected features of the MPA.

 

Site condition monitoring
Fishing vessel monitoring data are collected within the site. Site condition monitoring surveys are yet to take place within this MPA. Further information will be made available under the monitoring tab in due course.

 

Progression towards conservation objectives
No long-term condition monitoring data are available to determine whether the MPA is moving towards or has reached its conservation objectives. The site has a ‘restore’ conservation objective based on the findings of a vulnerability assessment which suggests the site is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives. Further information will be provided under the assessment tab as it becomes available.

 

Monitoring

 

Last updated: October 2017

 

JNCC is currently leading on the development of a strategy for biodiversity monitoring across all UK waters, to include MPA monitoring. For MPAs, data and evidence collected from monitoring activities will aim to:

  • Enable assessment of condition of the features within sites;
  • Enable assessment of the degree to which management measures are effective in achieving the conservation objectives for the protected features;
  • Support the identification of priorities for future protection and/or management; and,
  • Enable Government to fulfil its national and international assessment and reporting commitments in relation to MPAs and help identify where further action may be required.

 

Information on monitoring of this MPA will be provided when it becomes available.

 

Assessment

 

Last updated: October 2017

 

Assessments of the condition of designated features in offshore MPAs are required to report against our legal obligations. Ideally these assessments should be based on observed data, and then measured against targets for predefined indicators. However, for MPAs in offshore waters we do not always have the appropriate information to be able to do so. This is particularly true for seabed habitats, which are the main type of feature designated for protection in offshore MPAs. 

 

To address these challenges, JNCC has been an active partner in the development of new approaches and tools for the assessment of habitats and species for a variety of national and international status reports. They include the second cycle of the Conservation Status Assessment reports under the EU Habitats Directive, Charting Progress 2 and the OSPAR Quality Status Report. JNCC continues to develop and pilot tools for the assessment of marine habitats and species in offshore waters to improve the quality and transparency of our offshore MPA assessments, and contribute to the monitoring of marine biodiversity in UK waters. These tools cover methods for producing interim assessments of site features and their responses to pressures, as well as developing more robust indicators for determining condition of the features.

 

Every six years, Member States are required under Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive to report on the Conservation Status of Annex I habitats and Annex II species on the Habitats Directive.  The assessments should consider the habitat or species both within the Natura 2000 network and in the wider sea.  The latest report was submitted by the UK in 2013 and provided a second assessment of the conservation status of relevant habitats and species within UK marine waters during 2007-2012. The next report is for the period 2013-2018 and is due in 2019; information on the condition of features within SACs will make a contribution to this report. The assessments of features within MPAs will also feed into six yearly reports on the state of the marine environment under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which aims to achieve Good Environmental Status by 2020.

 

 

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