SACs in which CFTs are a feature for site selection

Papa Stour

Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast

Llyn Peninsula and the Sarnau


Papa Stour

This was selected for candidate SAC status because of the excellence of two Annex I habitats within the area, reefs and sea caves.

To quote from the supporting SNH documentation: "The coast and inshore waters of Papa Stour comprise a rugged stretch of some of the most exposed rocky reefs and some of the finest examples of sea caves to be found in the U.K......The numerous and extensive caves, which have rich faunal turfs on their walls, are the best examples of their type in Shetland and are among the most extensive of such systems in the British.....The rocky coastline of Papa Stour is amongst the most exposed in Britain and both Papa Stour and the adjacent mainland are fringed entirely by bedrock and boulder reefs which reach depths beyond 30 m. This rocky underwater terrain is rugged, with rock walls, slopes, gullies, ledges, ridges and boulder slopes which provide a range of reef habitats for a variety of plant and animal communities....... Communities on circalittoral rock are characteristic of this area, with the dominant species including the soft coral Alcyonium digitatum, the feather star Antedon bifida, encrusting coralline algae and the serpulid Pomatoceros triqueter. Wave exposed gullies have rich, surge-tolerant communities with turfs of the jewel anemone Corynactis viridis, ascidians and bryozoans. In the strong tidal streams of the Sound of Papa, boulder reefs and bedrock ridges are dominated by scour-tolerant organisms such as the hydroid Abietinaria abietina and the brittlestar Ophiocomina nigra."

Accounts of the subtidal biotopes of Papa Stour are contained in Hiscock (1986), Howson (1988) and Moss & Ackers (1987). In terms of the density and variety of CFT biotopes Papa Stour is clearly a site of importance.


Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast

The SNH recommendation states : "The shore and inshore waters from St Abbs Head to Alnmouth, including the Farne Islands, comprise a site of unusually high marine habitat diversity which is of international importance under Annex I. It is recommended for its complex of extensive and diverse reef habitats, littoral and submerged sea caves and range of littoral mudflats and sandflats with rich infaunal communities."

The area is also biogeographically interesting. "A sizeable proportion of the marine species recorded in the area are characteristic of cold water influences from the sub-arctic, or are Atlantic species which are only rarely found on the North Sea coast. Several reach their southern or eastern limits of distribution within the area. There are also good examples present of representative North Sea marine communities characteristic of the wide range of habitats found."

Reefs are a major element of the recommendation, as is clear from the following. "The diversity of the reef habitats in this site is particularly high for the North Sea. These habitats include areas of limestone, an unusual marine habitat in Britain, sandstone, millstone grit and volcanic outcrops which descend steeply into deep water around the Farnes and St. Abbs Head. Sublittoral bedrock extends upwards into the littoral, providing a variety of terraces, overhangs, ridges and gullies, ideal habitats for diverse reef communities including populations of commercially-important crustaceans, some rock-boring fauna and extensive kelp forests. Reef habitats extend to the seaward boundary in many areas including the entire length of the Scottish sector. Along this stretch of coast, from Fast Castle to the border north of Berwick, inshore bedrock reefs are the dominant habitat type grading to boulder and cobble and then cobble towards the seaward boundary. Sublittoral sediments are restricted to small patches in this area whilst the entire coastline is rocky apart from sandy beaches at Coldingham and Eyemouth. From Burnmouth south to the border, these inshore sublittoral reefs are primarily rock platforms whilst north of here the seabed is more broken. The sublittoral cobble, pebble and gravel reefs swept by tidal currents support communities of high nature conservation importance, including many northern species."

"St. Abbs Head is a major headland on the North Sea coast and has a variety of rock types surrounded by deep clear water. Habitats are predominantly rocky and include sublittoral reefs with gullies, cliffs, platforms, boulders and caves which extend upwards into the littoral zone as platforms, ridges and gullies. These habitats have a marked northern component to their fauna and flora apparent in the presence of species such as the hydroid Thuiaria thuja, the anemone Bolocera tuediae and the wolf fish Anarichas lupus, all of which are uncommon on the west coast of Scotland but frequent in the Shetland Islands. The headland supports one of the most important seabird colonies on the east coast of Scotland."

"The Farne Islands (over 20 small islands and rocky outcrops) are the only rocky island complex in the North Sea south of Orkney and Norway. As well as a wide range of littoral and sublittoral reefs with surge gullies, cliffs, tunnels and dense kelp forests, they have large grey seal and seabird breeding populations."

"Within the Scottish sector of this site, the extensive reef habitats around the major headland of St. Abbs Head southwards to Eyemouth are considered to be of particular interest. The relatively deep clear water and strong tidal streams produce a diverse range of habitats and associated communities which are the best examples of their kind in the North Sea."

Its importance in terms of density and range of CFT biotopes is very clear, as is biogeographical importance. There is extensive information available on the sublittoral environment (Earll, 1981,1982; Edwards, 1983; Kluijver, 1993; Mathers et al., 1978; Pagett, 1983).


Llyn Peninsula and the Sarnau

This was selected for SAC status partly on the basis of its reefs, "for which this is considered to be one of the best areas in the United Kingdom" (CCW recommendation documentation). The following account presents the relevant parts of the CCW 'Description of marine interest'.

"The diversity of reefs around and offshore of the LLyn Peninsula and Bardsey Island provide a wide range of habitats that reflect the varied aspects and exposure to water movement, substratum and topographical features of the coastline. The varied habitats in areas of bedrock, boulders, cobble, sandy rock, surge gullies and the tideswept areas of Bardsey Sound support a diverse array of plant and animal communities. There are distinctive communities on bedrock and boulders from sites exposed to very strong wave action and/or tidal streams, to sites sheltered from strong water movement."

"The Sarnau (Sarn Badrig, Sarn-y-Bwlch and Cynfelyn Patches) are very unusual shallow subtidal reefs which extend into Cardigan Bay from the coast. ....... Fast tidal currents and strong wave action have a profound influence on the marine communities occurring on the Sarnau, and the reefs as a whole are characterised by a large number of species resistant to scour and sand cover. Algal communities are dominant over much of the reef........ Rich animal populations are found in the slightly deeper parts of the reefs, with a wide variety of animal species present in some locations including crustaceans, coelenterates, sponges, hydroids, and encrusting bryozoans."

"There is an extremely well developed cave system around the St Tudwal's Islands that includes both littoral and sublittoral components and contains habitats of high conservation interest and unusual species communities. There is also a completely submerged cave at Pen-y-cil which penetrates from west to east through the headland."

A site of importance for CFT biotopes which clearly provides a wide diversity of environments. Accounts of the sublittoral environment are given by Hiscock (1984, 1986).

Next section                      References