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Anton Dohrn Seamount MPA




Anton Dohrn Seamount is an extinct volcano situated 230 km west of the Outer Hebrides, to the west of Scotland. The seamount hosts a range of Annex I reef sub-types, including bedrock reef in the upper regions of the seamount and stony reefs on the lower flanks. In addition, there are biogenic cold-water coral reefs present along the edge of the seamount cliffs and on smaller volcanic structures called parasitic cones at the base of the seamount. The bedrock reefs, and the stony reefs further down the flanks, support a diverse range of species including sea cucumbers, brittlestars, corals and sponges. At the bottom of the flanks of the seamount, the stony reef gives way to finer gravels, which are colonised by many large single-celled organisms, known as xenophyophores. The biogenic reefs are interspersed with dense aggregations of corals typical in places of the OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining habitat known as 'coral gardens', as well as sponges, sea urchins and sea lilies.

More detailed site information can be found in the Summary section

Map displaying the Anton Dohrn MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.


Map showing Anton Dohrn Seamount Marine Protected Area and linking to the MPA mapper


Legislation behind the designation: EU Habitats Directive 1992 transposed into UK law by The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended).


Protected Features

Feature Feature Type
1170 Reefs Annex I habitat

Specific information on the conservation objectives relating to this site is provided in the Conservation Advice section.

The acquisition of new data may result in updates to our knowledge on feature presence and extent within this site. The most up-to-date information is reflected on the map in this section and in JNCC’s MPA mapperand the evidence underpinning this can be viewed in the Monitoring and Evidence section below.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of the Anton Dohrn Seamount SAC. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section below.

June 2011
Site formally recommended to the UK Government as a draft SAC.
May 2012
Formal public consultation.
September 2012
Site submitted to the European Commission. Site becomes a candidate SAC.
November 2013
Site is approved by the European Commission as a Site of Community Interest (SCI).
September 2017
Site is formally designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) by UK Government.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Anton Dohrn Seamount SAC were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date. This Site Information Centre is the most up-to-date source of information for this MPA, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced. Information about the SAC site selection process is available on JNCC's SAC webpages.

These resources are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.



Last updated: January 2019

The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Relevant Documentation section and incorporates any further information gathered since these documents were produced. 


Site Overview

Anton Dohrn Seamount is located to the west of Scotland, about 200 km from the Outer Hebrides in the Rockall Trough, a deep-water channel in the North-east Atlantic. The seamount is a former volcano, roughly circular in shape, and was last active 40–70 million years ago. The top is fairly uniform in depth (at 1,100 m) and is surrounded by steep cliff slopes extending down towards a moat at ~2,400 m water depth. The seamount is approximately 1,800 m high from the deepest point of the moat to the crest of the feature, and about 40 km in diameter. On the lower flanks, parasitic cones occur that were formed when volcanic material erupted from lateral fractures rather than the central vent.

The site contains a series of bedrock, stony and biogenic reefs – sub-types of Annex I reef. The upper regions of the seamount flanks are bedrock reef grading to stony reef on the lower flanks. These habitats support assemblages of sea cucumbers, brittlestars, cup corals and sponges. At the base of the seamount flanks, bedrock and stony reef outcrop on ridges, extending radially from the centre of the seamount, and on parasitic cones. In places, both these features support dense aggregations of sea whips (or sea fans) and other corals, in communities known as 'coral gardens' – an OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining habitat. Also present is biogenic reef formed from Lophelia pertusa and Solenosmilia variabilis cold-water corals. This structurally complex habitat supports a diverse and unique range of fauna, including black corals, sea whips, soft corals and stony corals.

Within the Rockall Trough and Bank Regional Sea, where Anton Dohrn Seamount is situated, there are three other SACs designated for the presence of Annex I reef: Darwin Mounds SAC, North West Rockall Bank SAC and East Rockall Bank SAC. Anton Dohrn Seamount SAC provides the only example of a mixture of stony, bedrock and biogenic reef sub-types on a seamount. Recommendation of all these sites within the same Regional Sea is justified partly because of the differences between the reef types at each site (structure and associated communities) to ensure the variation of types is represented in the network of SACs, and partly to ensure sufficient proportion of the total UK resource of reef is included within the UK SAC network. Further detail on the evidence for this SAC can be found in the Monitoring and Evidence section.

Site location: Co-ordinates for this SAC can be found in the Standard Data Form listed in the Relevant Documentation section.

Site area: 1,429 km2

Anton Dohrn Seamount SAC covers a similar area to the Peak District National Park (1,437 km2).

Site depth range: From the summit of the seamount 760 m below sea-level, the flanks descend to approximately 2,400 m below sea-level at the base of the seamount.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Atlantic North-West Approaches, Rockall Trough and the Faeroe/Shetland Channel.

Site boundary description: The boundary is a relatively simple polygon enclosing the minimum area necessary to ensure protection of the Annex I habitat. The cSAC boundary has been drawn in a ring shape that incorporates the Annex I habitats on the cliff edge, seamount flanks, radial ridges and parasitic cones. It excludes the central summit of the seamount, which comprises mostly sands and gravels, in order to reduce the area of 'non-Annex I' feature within the site boundary. As bottom trawling could threaten the Annex I reef feature, the site boundary includes a margin to allow for the mobile gear on the seabed being some distance from the vessel. The Annex I features at the foot of the seamount slope are situated at a maximum of 2,000 m water depth. Assuming a ration of 2:1 fishing warp length to depth on the continental shelf, the outer extent of the boundary is defined to include a margin of approximately 4,000 m from the reef features. The Annex I features at the summit edge are located at approximately 1,000 m water depth. The inner extent of the boundary, therefore, includes a margin of approximately 2,000 m from the reef feature.


Monitoring and Evidence

Last updated: November 2023

There are a range of data that underpin this SAC. The full overview of the data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the Anton Dohrn Seamount SAC Selection Assessment Document. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to its MPA mapper in due course.

Some of the data for this SAC have been collected through JNCC-funded or collaborative surveys and some through other means. Data from these surveys provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site. 


Survey and data gathering

  • Deep Links Project (2016) – A collaborative project between Plymouth University's Deep Sea CRU and University of Oxford, in partnership with JNCC and British Geological Survey, funded by NERC. During May and June 2016 the team undertook a 6 week research cruise in the North East Atlantic, including Anton Dohrn Seamount, on board the RRS James Cook collecting data. This project aims to investigate the theory that populations at bathyal depths are more isolated because the currents that transport larvae decrease with depth.
  • JNCC/British Geological Survey/University of Plymouth surveys of Anton Dohrn and East Rockall Bank (2009) – Commissioned by JNCC and undertaken by the British Geological Survey, University of Plymouth and Marin Mättenik AB, this survey took place between 1 and 29 of July 2009. The survey collected high-quality acoustic and photographic 'ground-truthing' data to enable the distribution, extent and biological characterisation of the Annex I reef. For further information, see the cruise report (Stewart et al., 2009):
  • Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Surveys off North of Scotland (2005) – The SEA surveys were commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry (now Department for Energy and Climate Change). These surveys, in which JNCC collaborated, collected multibeam and underwater imagery data from areas off the north and west coasts of Scotland. 


Data analysis reports

Analyses of data gathered as part of the surveys listed above, as well as other relevant data analysis products, are available via the following reports:


Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the Selection Assessment Document. Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.


Knowledge gaps

As part of the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS), JNCC led the development of a UK Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Strategy, working with partners across the UK monitoring community. The Strategy spans UK territorial and offshore waters, focusing on biodiversity in the wider environment and within Marine Protected Areas.  Its aim is to implement efficient, integrated monitoring of marine biodiversity to provide the evidence needed for all the UK's policy drivers.

The Marine Directorate of Scottish Government, in partnership with JNCC and NatureScot, developed a Scottish Marine Protected Area (MPA) monitoring strategy. The Strategy spans Scottish territorial and offshore waters, focusing on biodiversity within Marine Protected Areas. The Strategy is supported by a series of annexes which provide more detail on monitoring methods, collaborative working, current monitoring and a two year forward look for MPA monitoring in Scottish waters.

The evidence collected during MPA monitoring surveys is used in combination with other available evidence to:

  • Enable assessment of condition of the features within sites;
  • Contribute to the assessment of the degree to which management measures are effective in achieving the conservation objectives for the protected features;
  • Support the identification of priorities for future protection and/or management; and,
  • Enable Government to fulfil its national and international assessment and reporting commitments in relation to MPAs and help identify where further action may be required.

More detail on offshore MPA monitoring can be found on the Offshore MPA monitoring webpage. A list of monitoring surveys and relevant reports can be found on the MPA monitoring survey reports webpage.

If you are aware of any additional information not listed here or referred to in the Relevant Documentation section, please contact us


Conservation Advice

Last updated: March 2018

Updated formal conservation advice for this MPA was produced in March 2018. Further information on the approach used to develop this advice is available on our 'Conserving MPAs' webpage along with a Glossary of Terms used in JNCC's conservation advice and a short video explaining how to use the conservation advice packages.

You must refer to this advice if you:

  • undertake a Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) for a plan or project that could impact the site;
  • provide information for a HRA;
  • respond to specific measures to support delivery of the conservation objectives for the site; and
  • consider the need to put new or additional management measures in place.

You may also find it useful to refer to this advice if you:

  • carry out any other activity that could impact the site.

We will engage with stakeholders to identify any lessons which JNCC can learn from customers who have used the advice, with a view to continuing to ensure it is fit-for-purpose.

The following table provides an overview of the components of the conservation advice, and provides hyperlinks to each of the products for this MPA. These elements together form JNCC’s formal conservation advice for this site and should be read in conjunction with each other. This updated advice replaces the previous Regulation 18 package for the site. This advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by JNCC (correct as of March 2018).




Background Information

Explains the purpose of the advice and when it must be referred to.

Conservation Objectives

Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (SACO)

The Conservation Objectives set out the broad ecological aims for the site. JNCC provides supplementary advice in the SACO which is essential reading to support interpretation of these conservation objectives.

You can use these documents to assess the impacts of your planned activity on the important attributes of the site.

Please note our current understanding of whether the available evidence indicates that each attribute needs to be recovered or maintained is not provided here. However, links to available evidence for the site are provided and should you require further site-specific information for the site, please contact us.

Conservation advice statements

These statements provide a summary of the Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (SACO).

  • Site condition presents our up-to-date understanding of the condition of features within the site;
  • Conservation benefits which the site can provide, these help you understand what is important about the site and why it needs protecting; and
  • Conservation measures which JNCC considers are needed to support achievement of the conservation objectives. These provide clarity around measures needed to support restoration or maintenance of the feature(s) within the site.

Advice on operations

Provides information on the activities capable of affecting site integrity and therefore achievement of the site’s conservation objectives.

This is a starting point for determining potential management requirements. It does not take into account the intensity, frequency or cumulative impacts from activities taking place. It is simply to advise you of the possible adverse impacts that your activity can have on a MPA’s features.

Use the advice on operations to determine those pressures your activity causes that could harm the habitat and/or species features of the site.

These documents are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.



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