Red List habitat classification > RL - Marine habitats > RLNEA - Atlantic > NEAA5.27 Atlantic lower circalittoral sand

Atlantic lower circalittoral sand

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code NEAA5.27
Threat status
Europe Endangered
EU Endangered
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)

Summary

This habitat occurs in offshore circalittoral habitats with fine sands or non-cohesive muddy sands. They include areas in the Celtic Sea and areas of the Irish Sea, north of the Isle of Man, in Liverpool Bay and Cardigan Bay and also in St. George’s Channel.  The sediments are likely to be more stable than similar shallower counterparts and the associated communities are characterised by a diverse range of polychaetes, crustaceans, bivalves and echinoderms. In deep offshore sand or non-cohesive muddy sand dense populations of maldanid polychaetes such as Maldane sarsi as well as the cumacean Eudorellopsis deformis may be found.  Accompanying these species are abundant ophiuroids, the amphipod Harpinia antennaria and the bivalves Nuculoma tenuis and Parvicardium minimum. Areas of slightly muddy sand may be characterised by high numbers of the tube building polychaete Owenia fusiformis often with the brittlestar Amphiura filiformis.  

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.

Examples of indicators of "naturalness" that are potential indicators of quality for offshore sand habitats such as this are; typical populations of bivalves and epifaunal brittlestars; maintained presence of substratum; lack of smothering; typically diverse communities with no increase in hardy or opportunistic species; and maintenance of sediment characteristics with typical levels of diversity.

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

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

This habitat has a widespread distribution. There are no precise figures on its extent of however a combination of survey data and modelling indicates that it does not have a restricted geographical distribution or occur in only a few locations in the North East Atlantic.
Most sedimentary benthic systems on the continental shelf of Europe have been modified by fishing activities in the last 100 years, particularly by mobile demersal gears, and this habitat remains under fishing pressure. Disturbance of the substratum due to intensive fishing activities using bottom trawls or dredges can damage or modify infaunal communities, with burrowing echinoderms and bivalves being particularly vulnerable. Loss of substrate is also likely to be detrimental particularly where the majority of the characterising species are interstitial polychaetes. Recent data for a single year (2013/2014) has revealed that over 80% of the estimated area of lower circalittoral sand habitat in the North Sea and Celtic Sea was subject to to fishing pressure by bottom otter, beam and mid-water trawls. Much the same footprint of activity is likely each year and as this type of fishing pressure has been ongoing for many decades, there has most likely been a cumulative impact on habitat quality.
Expert opinion is that there has been a very substantial reduction in quality of this habitat, most likely an intermediate decline affecting more than 80% of its extent although it is clear that in some locations there has also been a severe decline. The severity will depend on factors such as the intensity and frequency of disturbance. This habitat has therefore been assessed as Endangered for both the EU 28 and EU 28+ because of both past and likely continuing declines in quality.
EU
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Endangered C/D1
Europe
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Endangered C/D1

Confidence in the assessment

medium
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
    • Pollution to surface waters (limnic, terrestrial, marine & brackish)
    • Nutrient enrichment (N, P, organic matter)
    • Marine water pollution
    • Toxic chemical discharge from material dumped at sea
    • Synthetic compound contamination
  • Climate change
    • Changes in abiotic conditions
    • Water flow changes (limnic, tidal and oceanic)
    • Wave exposure changes

Habitat restoration potential

Large bodied, slow growing fauna such as bivalves which are associated with this habitat are sensitive to fishing disturbances and their populations may be slow to recover. Areas that are heavily fished may never fully recover because the seabed is re-disturbed before recovery has taken place. The timescales for recovery will depend on the individual area and the community present, bivalves of the genus Thyasira occur in isolated populations, and due to the lack of a dispersing larval stage, and are unlikely to recover if lost.
Thyasirids, small burrowing bivalves which live in fine sediments, are thought to be fairly slow growing and recovery of a damaged population is likely to take up to 5 years and depends on direct recruitment from the same population due to the low dispersal potential of these species. Where they occur in isolated poulations they are therefore unlikely to recover if lost. In comparison, the high fecundity and larval dispersal potential of many of the polychaetes associated with this habitat is likely to result in a population recovering quite quickly - in less than a year for O. fusiformis and in approximately 5-6 years for A. filiformis due to the later age at which it reaches sexual maturity

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

Unknown Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

Decreasing Decreasing
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

Beneficial management measures for this habitat include control or restriction of activities which damage or disturb seabed communities such as mobile demersal fishing, dredging and offshore construction works. The regulation of effluent discharge can also support the conservation of this habitat.

List of conservation and management needs

  • Measures related to marine habitats
    • Other marine-related measures
    • Restoring marine habitats
  • 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

Distribution

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 255,226 Decreasing Unknown
Celtic Seas
Kattegat
Greater North Sea
Macaronesia

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 5,012,574 6,236 >255,226 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+ >6,236 >255,226 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

The full list of characteristic species and genus are available above from the Summary. The species available in the EUNIS database are shown here.
Invertebrates Amphiura filiformis
Invertebrates Arctica islandica
Invertebrates Astarte borealis
Invertebrates Chaetozone setosa
Invertebrates Chamelea gallina
Invertebrates Diplocirrus glaucus
Invertebrates Eudorella truncatula
Invertebrates Eudorellopsis deformis
Invertebrates Goniada maculata
Invertebrates Harpinia antennaria
Invertebrates Levinsenia gracilis
Invertebrates Macoma balthica
Invertebrates Macoma calcarea
Invertebrates Maldane sarsi
Invertebrates Mya arenaria
Invertebrates Mya truncata
Invertebrates Owenia fusiformis
Invertebrates Parvicardium minimum
Invertebrates Pholoe inornata
Invertebrates Scoloplos armiger
Invertebrates Spiophanes kroyeri
Invertebrates Thyasira equalis
Invertebrates Timoclea ovata
Species scientific name English common name Species group
Amphiura filiformis Invertebrates
Arctica islandica Ocean quahog Invertebrates
Astarte borealis Invertebrates
Chaetozone setosa Invertebrates
Chamelea gallina Invertebrates
Diplocirrus glaucus Invertebrates
Eudorella truncatula Invertebrates
Eudorellopsis deformis Invertebrates
Goniada maculata Invertebrates
Harpinia antennaria Invertebrates
Levinsenia gracilis Invertebrates
Macoma balthica Invertebrates
Macoma calcarea Invertebrates
Maldane sarsi Invertebrates
Mya arenaria Invertebrates
Mya truncata Invertebrates
Owenia fusiformis Invertebrates
Parvicardium minimum Invertebrates
Pholoe inornata Invertebrates
Scoloplos armiger Invertebrates
Spiophanes kroyeri Invertebrates
Thyasira equalis Invertebrates
Timoclea ovata Invertebrates

Vegetation types

Relation to vegetation types (syntaxa)

Not available

Other classifications

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