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Features of Conservation Importance - Species

29 species FOCI were identified by JNCC and Natural England from the Initial OSPAR List of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats; the UK List of Priority Species and Habitats (UK BAP), and Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). These are considered to benefit from site-based protection and are to be included in the regional MCZ project areas where they occur. From the available distribution maps, 14 of the 29 occur in the Balanced Seas project area. Additional data may reveal the presence of other species on the list. 

Shallow sub-tidal species

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Long-snouted Seahorse
Hippocampus guttulatus
 

Long snouted seahorses live in shallow beds of seagrass and seaweeds so their distribution generally depends on the presence of these plants. Tend to be found in slightly deeper water than short snouted seahorses. Found in southern Norfolk, Essex, south-eastern England, along the south coast, around parts of Wales and along the west coast of Scotland to the Shetland Isles. The UK and west coast of Ireland represent the northerly limit of the seahorse’s range: it is found on Atlantic coasts as far south as Morocco and in the Mediterranean.

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Short snouted seahorse

Hippocampus hippocampus
 
Short snouted seahorses live in shallow water in beds of seagrass and seaweeds, so their distribution generally depends on the presence of these plants. In winter, seahorses thought to move into deeper water to escape rough seas, and they have been recorded from depths of 75m. Tend to be found in slightly shallower water than long snouted seahorses.
 
Found in the extreme south of England and the Channel Islands. In Europe, they occur on Atlantic coasts from the Wadden Sea to Portugal, in the Black Sea, and in the Mediterranean, where they are given extra protection under the Bern and Barcelona Conventions.
 
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Common Maerl

Phymatolithon calcareum
 
Common maerl is a red seaweed with a hard, chalky skeleton. Unlike many other seaweeds, it does not need a hard surface to attach to and can be found in a variety of habitats from mud to sand and pebbles. Usually found in shallow water (less than 10m) or down as deep as light allows. Normally mauvish brown in colour, its surface can be either smooth or flaky. Live plants usually grow lying on top of layers of dead maerl to form maerl beds, which are used by other marine creatures as refuges or hard surfaces on which to grow. At risk from scallop dredging and other mobile fishing gears, as well as from pollution. Recorded from the south and west coasts of England, but more abundant around the Scottish / Irish coasts. The most widespread maerl species in Europe, found from Norway and Denmark to Portugal, and into the Mediterranean Sea and in the Aegean.
 
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Ocean Quahog

Arctica islandica

The ocean quahog is a typical cockle-shaped bivalve with a thick, glossy and dark brown shell. Long-lived animal and growing up to 13cm across, they are found from just below the low water level to depths of about 500m. Live buried in sand and muddy sand with a small tube extending up to the seabed surface used as a siphon to keep water flowing across the animal so that it can breathe, capture food and expel waste. Commercial fisheries for the bivalve increased enormously in the mid-1970s, and have remained at those levels ever since. They are an important food source for cod but are at particular risk from bottom fishing gear. Can take up to 50 years to reach market size, therefore populations can take a long time to recover. Found all around, and offshore from, British and Irish coasts. European range extends from Norway to the Bay of Biscay.
 
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Native Oyster

Ostrea edulis

Native oysters have a rough shell that is yellow, pale green or brown in colour. This rounder shell with smoother edges distinguishes it from the Pacific oysters, introduced to the UK in 1926, which compete for space and food. Begin life as males but change back and forth from male to female throughout their lives. Grow to about 11cm long but can reach over 20cm and live up to 20 years. A single female can produce 2 million eggs. Found to a depth of 80m on nearly any type of seabed from bedrock to mud. Tolerant of a wide range of wave and tidal conditions, they live in sheltered bays as well as exposed coasts. Can also live in the reduced salinity of estuaries. Widely distributed around UK coasts, particularly in the south and west, with the main stocks found in the south-east, the Thames estuary, the Solent and the River Fal. Extends from the Norwegian Sea to the Atlantic coast of Morocco and into the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

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Lagoon Species

 
DeFolin’s lagoon snail

Caecum armoricum

Defolin’s lagoon snail measures only 2mm long.  Unlike other spiral or domed snail shells, it is shaped like a slightly curved test-tube.  This very rare creature lives between small pebbles high on the beach, where seawater seeps through the shingle to form lagoons. Any changes to the lagoons in which it lives could result in its complete disappearance.  Coastal lagoons are often transient, and may disappear through natural beach movement.  Human actions, such as the construction of coastal defences, can cause beaches to shrink or grow, and so can speed up the loss of coastal lagoons.

Live colonies have been found only in isolated locations on the south coast of England and at a site in the South Gibraltar Strait.  Shell records have been found in Ireland, the Atlantic coast from Gibraltar to the Channel, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean.

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Lagoon Sand Shrimp
Gammarus insensibilis
 
Lagoon sand shrimps are about 2cm in length and found only in the coastal lagoons that form high up on beaches. Very little is known about their biology or behaviour. They can occur in large numbers, 
Southern England is the furthest north they have ever been recorded, and they have only been found in a few locations on the south and east coasts. Vulnerable to pollution and deposition. 
Lagoon sand shrimps were present in Widewater lagoon, Sussex, but have not been recorded there since 1979.
 
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Starlet Sea Anemone
Nematostella vectensis
 
The starlet sea anemone lives in brackish lagoons at or above high water, usually in mud, muddy sand and muddy shingle but also on tasselweed and seagrass.  Less than 15 mm in length (entire body column), the disc from which its tentacles emerge is 1.5mm across. Its sticky tentacles are long in proportion to its body, colourless and translucent with pale tips. Threatened by loss and damage to lagoons or other sheltered brackish water habitats caused by pollution, drainage, coastal defence works and associated infilling can have a major impact. Populations have become extinct in some places due to loss of habitat and pollution. In the UK, the starlet sea anemone occurs in only a few coastal lagoons in the Isle of Wight, Sussex, Hampshire, and in Dorset and along the East Anglian coast. It may also occur in some brackish ponds and ditches. It is not known elsewhere in Europe.
 
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Tentacled lagoon worm
Alkmaria romijni

This tiny bristleworm grows to less than 5mm long and lives in a tube made of mud in sheltered estuaries and lagoons. It has six gills and a number of smooth thread-like tentacles, which it pushes out from around its mouth to gather food from the surrounding mud.   Requires muddy sediments in brackish water. Threats include pollution of the mud and seawater; changes in the currents and the nature of the mud; changes in saltiness of the water and mud; and disturbance from dredging and bait-digging. Found on the southern shores of the North Sea as far north as the Humber, along the English Channel and round into Pembrokeshire. Around Europe, it is found from the Netherlands to Denmark and in the Baltic Sea.

 
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Intertidal species

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A Stalked Jellyfish

Haliclystus auricula
 
This stalked jellyfish more closely resembles a coral than a jellyfish. It is funnel-shaped and grows to about 2cm high, with clusters of up to one hundred short, stinging tentacles at the tips of eight webbed arms. Its larvae crawl across the sea floor to find a suitable attaching place, where they eventually develop into new adults. Prefer shallow areas, with adequate water movement to bring plenty of food, and may be found at the bottom of the shore. Sensitive to pollution and changes in environmental conditions. This stalked jellyfish is recorded from the Shetland Isles, Orkney, the west coasts of England, Ireland and Scotland, with isolated records from Northumberland. A cold-water animal found in the N Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean.
 
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A Stalked Jellyfish

Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis
 
This stalked jellyfish is the smallest member of its family. Even at its largest, it is less than 1cm in height. It lives on rocky shores that are exposed to moderately strong waves and currents and is found close to the low tide mark or in shallow water. Unlike other stalked jellyfish, it is rarely attached to seagrass but is often found on small, red seaweeds, such as Irish moss. It resembles an upside-down jellyfish, with eight webbed arms within the translucent bell underneath and up to 35 rounded tentacles on the top. The UK distribution of this stalked jellyfish appears to be limited to the south-west of England, from Swanage in Dorset to north Devon, and the Atlantic coasts of Ireland. It may occur in the wider north-east Atlantic.
 
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A Stalked Jellyfish
 
Lucernariopsis campanulata
 
These stalked jellyfish are a uniform colour – red, green or brown – and live low down on rocky shores or in shallow water. Found on most types of seaweeds and seagrasses, but prefer to attach to the leaf-like fronds of kelp plants. Stinging cells within their tentacles are used to stun or kill prey and as a means of defence against predators.  Unlike typical jellyfish, stalked jellyfish have their tentacles on the top. Their funnel-shaped bodies grow up to 5cm in height. Their eight webbed arms have about 50 tentacles and are the location of the reproductive organs. This stalked jellyfish is widespread around the British Isles, but occurs less frequently on the east coast. May be found in other parts of the North Sea and north-east Atlantic, as well as the Mediterranean.
 
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A Sea Snail
Paludinella littorina
 
This sea snail reaches only 2mm maximum size. Found in caves and crevices and underneath rocks and shingle high up on sheltered coasts where wave action and tidal currents are weak. Its range extends right up into and above the splash zone above the high water mark. Sea snails are found in the shingle banks associated with saltmarshes, estuaries and coastal lagoons. Found primarily in the Mediterranean but also in the eastern Atlantic. UK distribution is restricted to the south and west coasts between the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly. Its range extends as far north as the Bristol Channel, and it has been found at sites on the north coast of Devon and the coast of Pembrokeshire. The largest populations are found in Cornwall and the Scilly Isles.
 
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Lagoon Sea Slug

Tenellia adspersa
 
The rare lagoon sea slug grows to 4mm, reaching a maximum of 8mm. They have mobile, finger-like structures around the edges of their bodies. Found in the shallow water of bays and harbours and on the shore between the tides. Prefer pebbles, larger stones and small rocks, as well as seaweed and seagrass beds. Sometimes found in both highly salty coastal lagoons and almost freshwater estuaries. They are actually predators that feed on hydroids (anemone or jellyfish-like creatures that live on the seabed). Threatened by pollution, in-filling and coastal defences that alter the lagoons. A few British records occur on the S and W coasts of England, but distribution extends to the Baltic, Mediterranean and E and W North Atlantic.
 
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