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Sabellaria reef monitoring Devon pilot study 2010

Sabellaria_photoDevon Wildlife Trust

Sabellaria alveolata is a species of filter-feeding polychaete worm found in the intertidal zone.  Individuals bind sand granules around themselves to form protective tubes and in areas where the species is common, these form low lying reefs.  The appearance of these reefs give the species its common name – honeycomb worm.

This reef-forming habit makes this species important in conservation terms, as the reefs create a living – or biogenic – habitat that supports a wide range of other species.  As a result,  Sabellaria alveolata reef habitat is the subject of a UK Biodiversity Action Plan and is a qualifying feature for the designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

Sabellaria_photoThe monitoring of Sabellaria alveolata reefs can provide a useful insight into a range of coastal conservation issues and can usefully contribute to the development of a wider Devon Biodiversity Monitoring Framework. 

In 2010 DBRC carried out a pilot study for Devon Wildlife Trust monitoring the extent of Sabellaria reefs on one stretch of Devon's coast. This included re-surveys of Sabellaria reefs from 2003 and 2006. The pilot study has collected valuable data relating to the species supported by Sabellaria alveolata reefs. It has also provided a useful indication of how the present methodology can be adapted to increase the value and repeatability of the data gathered, and how the lessons learned during this first survey season can feed into a wider monitoring and survey programme, maintaining the work’s momentum and rolling out the study to provide valuable information on Sabellaria alveolata reefs across the whole of the county.

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