Site details

Afen Region
(lookup in gazetteer)
Flag of United kingdom
United kingdom
Conservation
status
5 stars - Fully protected as a national park or Natura 2000 site by national legislation
MarBEF Deep Sea and Open Ocean Reference Site



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AFEN Region Photo:

Extensive description of site:

The sedimentary nature of the slope reflects the recent glacial past. Areas to the south of the Wyville Thomson Ridge have course sediments in shallower depths (<400 m), with sand and finer sediments occurring at greater depths. Currents are the major environmental forces with high current speeds recorded in the upper bathyal and slope (> 75 cm s-1). The Darwin Mounds (large carbonante mounds with the coral Lophelia pertusa) are found at depths of 1000 m on this southern section of the AFEN region. North of the Wyville Thomson ridge in the Faeroe – Shetland Channel there is widespread gravel deposited by glaciers at the last ice age.


Habitats present:

Deep-Sea BedRockSandMudBiohermBenthopelagicWater Column
Continental MarginXXXX Epi-pelagic  
Abyssal Plain     Mesopelagic  
Seamounts and
Oceanic Islands flanks
     Bathypelagic  
Chemosynthetic
environments
     Abyssopelagic  

Description of fauna and flora:

From a biodiversity point of view this is a unique are in the NE Atlantic because it encompasses two major biogeographic groupings. To the north of the Wyville Thomson Ridge the deep-sea fauna (>400 m) is characteristic of cold negative temperature bottom water lower diversity and abundance, while to the south the fauna is characteristic of the ‘warm’ positive-temperature bottom water. There is considerable data now available and there is a degree of historical data for this area. Located at a depth of about 1000m immediately south of the Wyville-Thomson the comparatively small carbonate 'Darwin Mounds' cover an area of approximately 100 km2 and contain some hundreds of mounds. The tops of the mounds are home to live colonies of the deep-water coral species Lophelia pertusa and the biological community that they support.

Habitat description:

Habitats according to EUNIS classification:

A5.3 Deep-sea sand substrates
A5.4 Deep-sea muddy sand
A5.22 Deep-sea biogenic gravels
(shells, coral debris) ( formed by living or recent dead organisms)
A5.24 Communities of allochthonous material
A5.61 Deep-sea bioherm dominated by scleractinian coral framework

Facilities:

The Scottish Association for Marine Studies and the commercial companies carrying out oil exploration and baseline studies have access to facilities. Organisations such as SOC and SAMS have laboratory facilities. Access to research vessels requires application to grant awarding agencies. NHM has worked on commercial contracts carried out as part of the EIA.

Available database and website:

NHM hold a large number of commercially sponsored datasets for this region. National Museums of Scotland hold extensive collections and many experts. There is considerable data now available and there is a degree of historical data for this area.

Links:

Commitment and ongoing research:

Scottish Association for Marine Studies and the commercial companies carrying out oil exploration and baseline studies have access to data. SOC is a member of the AFEN group and was instrumental in the environmental assessment of this area. The NHM may be able to discuss with commercial clients to allow the release of existing data. There is considerable data now available and there is a degree of historical data for this area. Public awareness in the UK of the Darwin Mounds is quite high as numerous articles have appeared in national press and TV.

Involvements:
Additional Information:

Bett BJ. 2001. UK Atlantic Margin Environmental Survey: Introduction and overview of bathyal benthic ecology. Continental Shelf Research 21 (8-10): 917-956.
Gage JD, Hughes DJ, Gonzalez Vecino JL 2002. Sieve size influence in estimating biomass, abundance and diversity in samples of deep-sea macrobenthos. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 225: 97-107
Gage JD 2001. Deep-sea benthic community and environmental impact assessment at the Atlantic Frontier. Continental Shelf Research 21 (8-10): 957-986
Le Goff-Vitry MC, Pybus OG, Rogers AD. 2004. Genetic structure of the deep-sea coral Lophelia pertusa in the northeast Atlantic revealed by microsatellites and internal transcribed spacer sequences. Molecular Ecology 13 (3): 537-549.
Masson DG, Bett BJ, Billett DSM, Jacobs CL, Wheeler AJ, Wynn RB. 2003. A fluid escape origin for deep-water coraltopped mounds in the northern Rockall Trough. Marine Geology 194 (3-4): 159-180.