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Pobie Bank Reef Survey 0923S (Blog #1): Return to Pobie Bank Reef – a 'Reef-tacular' Expedition

By Anamika Poyil & Tom Tangye

Offshore SurveyMarine Pobie Bank Reef SACSurvey 0923S

With the survey season now in full sail, our latest blog post is from our offshore survey team. The team, in collaboration with colleagues from the Marine Directorate of Scottish Government (formerly Marine Scotland), is returning to the Pobie Bank Reef Special Area of Conservation (SAC), situated in the North Sea, onboard Marine Research Vessel (MRV) Scotia, in late July 2023.

The Pobie Bank Reef SAC is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) located in the Northern North Sea, about 20 km east of Shetland (Figure 1). With a length of approximately 70 km and a width of up to 21 km, the site has an area of 966 km2, similar to the size of the county of Huntingdonshire.  Seabed depths in the area range from 70 m to more than 100 m. The site is designated for bedrock and stony reefs that meet the definition of Annex I habitat type 1170 (Reef). As Pobie Bank Reef SAC is located across the 12 nautical mile territorial limit, advice on the site is jointly delivered by JNCC and NatureScot.

Figure 1. Map displaying the location of the the Pobie Bank Reef Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

For this year’s survey, we will be conducting a survey with an imagery focus, taking drop frame camera video and still photographs from 100 sample locations (see Figure 2). The data collected will feed into the monitoring time series for the site.

Figure 2. Map identifying stations where we will be collecting drop camera imagery on this latest survey.

The reef is inhabited by a diverse community of encrusting and robust sponges, including the Axinellid cup sponge (Axinella infundibuliformis) and bryozoans (see Figures 3 and 4). Encrusting coralline algae and soft corals such as  Dead-Man’s Fingers (Alcyonium digitatum) grow on the bedrock and boulders in the shallowest areas, whereas small erect sponges, cup corals (Caryophyllia smithii) and the Serpent’s Table brittlestar (Ophiura albida) are prevalent in the deepest areas with low-lying silty bedrock (at depths of more than 100 m). Populations of the bryozoan Omalosecosa ramulosa are also common on these reefs, but rare in the region's inshore waters.

Figure 3. Sponge (Phykellia sp.), Devonshire cup corals (Caryophyllia smithii) and the common brittlestar (Ophiothrix fragilis) (© JNCC & Marine Directorate of the Scottish Government).

Figure 4. Cushion stars (Hippasteria phrygiana) on bedrocks with encrusting coralline algae (Corallinaceae), Dead-Man's Fingers (Alcyonium digitatum) and brittlestars (Ophiothrix fragilis) (© JNCC & Marine Directorate of the Scottish Government)

The survey is due to set sail on 24 July, and to return to shore on 4 August, so do look out for our updates.

If you'd like to find out more about our last survey to this site, please take a look at our previous blog posts




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