Red List habitat classification > RL - Marine habitats > RLNEA - Atlantic > NEAA5.23 Marine Atlantic infralittoral fine sand

Marine Atlantic infralittoral fine sand

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code NEAA5.23
Threat status
Europe Data Deficient
EU Data Deficient
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


This habitat is found in clean sands which occur in the shallow sublittoral to at least 30m depth either on the open coast or in tide-swept channels of marine inlets. The substratum may be formed into dunes on exposed or tide-swept coasts, and may be interspersed with cobbles and pebbles in some situations. The habitat includes areas of well-sorted medium and find sands subject to physical disturbance as a result of wave action and occasionally strong tidal streams. It can extend over large areas, for example being found in a wide stretch adjacent to the coast of the Netherlands to depths of 15-20m. The epifauna are necessarily tolerant to scour by sand. The habitat is characterised by a range of taxa including polychaetes, bivalve molluscs and amphipods. 

Indicators of quality:

Both biotic and abiotic indicators have been used to describe marine habitat quality. These include: the presence of characteristic species as well as those which are sensitive to the pressures the habitat may face; water quality parameters; levels of exposure to particular pressure, and more integrated indices which describe habitat structure and function, such as trophic index, or successional stages of development in habitats that have a natural cycle of change over time.

There are no commonly agreed indicators of quality for this habitat, although particular parameters may have been set in certain situations e.g. protected features within Natura 2000 sites, where reference values have been determined and applied on a location-specific basis.

Characteristic species
For full habitat description, please download the habitat factsheet.

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

Survey information confirms that this habitat has a widespread distribution in the North East Atlantic. There are documented changes in the quality of this habitat and ongoing pressures associated with demersal fisheries and aggregate extraction, but insufficient information to determine the overall trend for the regional sea.
This habitat has a large EOO and AOO, and therefore qualifies as Least Concern under criterion B. However the habitat is assessed as Data Deficient both at the EU 28 and EU 28+ levels because of the lack of information on any overall trends in quantity and quality.
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Data Deficient -
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Data Deficient -

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Biological resource use other than agriculture & forestry
    • Fishing and harvesting aquatic resources
    • Professional active fishing
    • Benthic or demersal trawling
    • Benthic dredging
  • Pollution
    • Marine water pollution
    • Oil spills in the sea
    • Toxic chemical discharge from material dumped at sea
    • Synthetic compound contamination
  • Natural System modifications
    • Human induced changes in hydraulic conditions
    • Removal of sediments (mud...)
    • Dredging/ Removal of limnic sediments
    • Modification of hydrographic functioning, general
  • Climate change
    • Changes in abiotic conditions
    • Water flow changes (limnic, tidal and oceanic)
    • Wave exposure changes

Habitat restoration potential

The life history characteristics of the species, particularly the polychaetes, suggest that the associated communities would probably recovery fairly rapidly. For instance, settlement of Lanice conchilega which has been reported to be more successful in areas with existent adults than areas without, have been observed to re-establish mature populations in three years. Reproductive data concerning Magelona mirabilis is scarce but it displays characteristics typical of an r-selected species, i.e. high reproductive rate, short life span and high dispersal potential.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Unknown Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Unknown Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

Beneficial management measures for this habitat include the regulation of fishing methods which damage or disturb seabed communities. More general protection measures include pollution control and regulation, construction development control and contingency plans to be followed in the event of a major pollution incident. Lastly, measures to reduce the impact of climate change, such as changing wave climate, should also be considered.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Restoring/Improving water quality
  • Measures related to marine habitats
    • Other marine-related measures
  • Measures related to spatial planning
    • Establish protected areas/sites
  • Measures related to hunting, taking and fishing and species management
    • Regulation/Management of fishery in marine and brackish systems


For each habitat a distribution map was produced from a wide variety of sources indicating known and potential occurrences of the habitat in 10x10 km grids within Europe. Occurrences in grid cells were given in two classes: actual distribution from relatively reliable sources (surveys, expert knowledge), and potential distribution based on models or less reliable indicators. Please download the fact sheet to see the map.

Geographic occurrence and trends

Seas Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast Present unknown Unknown Unknown
Celtic Seas
Greater North Sea

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 4,163,089 972 >5,176 The area estimate for this habitat has been derived from a synthesis of EUNIS seabed habitat geospatial information for the European Seas but is recognised as being an underestimate.
EU28+ >972 >5,176 EOO and AOO have been calculated on the available data. Although this data set is known to be incomplete the figures exceed the thresholds for threatened status.
AOO = the area occupied by a habitat measured in number of 10x10 km grid cells.
EOO = the area (km2) of the envelope around all occurrences of a habitat (calculated by a minimum convex polygon).

Characteristic species

Not available

Vegetation types

Relation to vegetation types (syntaxa)

Not available

Other classifications

Not available
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100