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Understanding the marine environment : seabed habitat investigations of the Dogger Bank offshore draft SAC

By Markus Diesing, Susanne Ware, Bob Foster-Smith, Heather Stewart, David Long, Koen Vanstaen, Rodney Forster and Angela Morando

Abstract

This report details work carried out by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and\ud Aquaculture Science (Cefas), British Geological Surveys (BGS) and Envision Ltd. for the\ud Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). It has been produced to provide the JNCC\ud with evidence on the distribution and extent of Annex I habitat (including variations of these\ud features) on the Dogger Bank in advance of its possible designation as a Special Area of\ud Conservation (SAC). The report contains information required under Regulation 7 of the\ud Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2007 and will enable the JNCC to advise\ud the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as to whether the site is\ud deemed eligible as a SAC. The report provides detailed information about the Dogger Bank\ud and evaluates its features of interest according to the Habitats Directive selection criteria and\ud guiding principles. This assessment has been made following a thorough analysis of existing\ud information combined with newly acquired field survey data collected using ‘state of the art’\ud equipment.\ud In support of this process acoustic (sidescan sonar and multibeam echosounder) and groundtruthing\ud data (Hamon grabs, trawls and underwater video) were collected during a 19-day\ud cruise on RV Cefas Endeavour, which took place between 2-20 April 2008. Existing\ud information and newly acquired data were combined to investigate the sub-surface geology,\ud surface sediments and bedforms, epifaunal and infaunal communities of the Dogger Bank.\ud Results were integrated into a habitat map employing the EUNIS classification. Key results\ud are as follows:\ud • The upper Pleistocene Dogger Bank Formation dictates the shape of the Dogger Bank.\ud • The Dogger Bank is morphologically distinguishable from the surrounding seafloor\ud following the application of a technique, which differentiates the degree of slope.\ud • A sheet of Holocene sediments of variable thickness overlies the Dogger Bank\ud Formation. At the seabed surface, these Holocene sediments can be broadly delineated\ud into fine sands and coarse sediments.\ud • Epifaunal and infaunal communities were distinguished based on multivariate analysis\ud of data derived from video and stills analysis and Hamon grab samples. Sediment\ud properties and depth were the main factors controlling the distribution of infauna and\ud epifauna across the Bank.\ud • Epifaunal and infaunal community links were explored. Most stations could be\ud categorised according to one of four combined infaunal/epifaunal community types (i.e.\ud sandy sediment bank community, shallow sandy sediment bank community, coarse\ud sediment bank community or deep community north of the bank).\ud • Biological zones were identified using modelling techniques based on light climate and\ud wave base data. Three biological zones, namely infralittoral, circalittoral and deep\ud circalittoral are present in the study site.\ud • EUNIS level 4 habitats were mapped by integrating acoustic, biological, physical and\ud optical data. Eight different habitats are present on the Dogger Bank.\ud This report also provides some of the necessary information and data to help the JNCC\ud ultimately reach a judgement as to whether the Dogger Bank is suitable as an SAC. In\ud support of this process the encountered habitats and the ecology of the Dogger Bank are\ud compared with other SACs known to contain sandbank habitats in UK waters. The\ud functional and ecological importance of the Dogger Bank as well as potential anthropogenic impacts is discussed. A scientific justification underlying the proposed Dogger Bank dSAC\ud boundary is also given (Appendix 1). This is followed by a discussion of the suitability and\ud cost-effectiveness of techniques utilised for seabed investigations of the Dogger Bank.\ud Finally, recommendations for strategies and techniques employed for investigation of Annex\ud I sandbanks are provided

Topics: Earth Sciences
Publisher: Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:11742

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Citations

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