Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 647–654 | Cite as

Motile fauna of sub-tidal Zostera marina meadows in England and Wales

  • J. R. Peters
  • R. M. McCloskey
  • S. L. Hinder
  • R. K. F. UnsworthEmail author
Original Paper


Despite being under continued anthropogenic threat, there exists limited evidence in the United Kingdom (UK) and northern Europe for the role of sub-tidal Zostera marina meadows in providing habitat in support of economically important fauna. This is a major issue given the need to support fisheries production into the future. Understanding this at a regional and local scale is important given that their ecosystem service value can change with factors such as environmental gradients and anthropogenic impacts. In the present study, we investigate the role of sub-tidal seagrass in supporting motile fauna including juvenile fish and invertebrates of commercial value. Seagrass meadows in three locations in the UK (Porthdinllaen, Tremadog Bay and the Isle of Wight) were examined using stereo Baited Remote Underwater Video systems (BRUVs). Twenty-six taxa were recorded, ten of which were of economic importance, including an abundance of juvenile gadoids. Although the commercially important species that we found as juveniles in seagrass are not obligate seagrass users, the resources that seagrass meadows offer to these fish potentially provide significant long-term fitness benefits, possibly enhancing the whole population. All sites sampled contained economically important fauna, but there existed a significant difference between the assemblages at different locations, with the sites in the Isle of Wight containing an impoverished fauna. Sites sampled in North Wales contained double the abundance of individuals and over three times the number of species than those in the Isle of Wight. This highlights that ecosystem services such as habitat provision are not constant between sites and possibly impacted upon by site condition and locally specific environmental differences. The present study provides evidence of the importance of seagrass meadows in the UK for supporting biodiversity and the need to protect these sensitive habitats.


Seagrass Eelgrass Baited Fish UK Baseline Ecology 



We would like to acknowledge the funding provided by the Welsh Government, SEACAMS and Common Seas. We would also like to thank Amy Dale (Hampshire Wildlife Trust), Jolyon Chesworth (Natural England), Alison Palmer-Hargrave (Penllyn a’r Sarnau SAC), Laura Hughes (National Trust) and several members of Natural Resources Wales (Phil Newman, Mark Burton, Paul Brazier, Kate Lock and Julia Korn) for helping to facilitate the research. Thanks to the following: Keith Naylor, Ash West, Ruth Callaway, Nicole Esteban and Chiara Bertelli (Swansea University), Tony Bruce (Enlli Charters), Andy Truelove (Broadside Boat Charters), Jon Shaw (SeeKat Marine Charters) and SOAS Boat Charters.


  1. Arroyo MDC, Salas C, Rueda JL, Gofas S (2006) Temporal changes of mollusc populations from a Zostera marina bed in southern Spain (Alboran Sea), with biogeographic considerations. Mar Ecol Evol Perspect 27:417–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Attrill MJ, Strong JA, Rowden AA (2000) Are macroinvertebrate communities influenced by seagrass structural complexity? Ecography 23:114–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barbier EB, Koch EW, Silliman BR, Hacker SD, Wolanski E, Primavera J, Granek EF, Polasky S, Aswani S, Cramer LA, Stoms DM, Kennedy CJ, Bael D, Kappel CV, Perillo GME, Reed DJ (2008) Coastal ecosystem-based management with nonlinear ecological functions and values. Science 319:321–323CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Barnes RSK, Ellwood MDF (2011) Macrobenthic assemblage structure in a cool-temperate intertidal dwarf eelgrass bed in comparison with those from lower latitudes. Biol J Linn Soc 104:527–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beck MW, Heck KL Jr, Able KW, Childers DL, Eggleston DB, Gillanders BM, Halpern B, Hays CG, Hoshino K, Minello TJ (2001) The identification, conservation, and management of estuarine and marine nurseries for fish and invertebrates. Bioscience 51:633–641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bell JD, Westoby M (1986) Variations in seagrass height and density over a wide spatial scale: effects on fish and decapods. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 104:275–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bertelli CM, Unsworth RKF (2014) Protecting the hand that feeds us: Seagrass (Zostera marina) serves as commercial juvenile fish habitat. Mar Poll Bull 83:425–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blanc A, Gp DS, Daguzan J (1998) Habitat and diet of early stages of Sepia Officinalis L. (Cephalopoda) In Morbihan Bay, France. J Mollusc Stud 64:263–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burrows M, Gibson R, Robb L, Comely C (1994) Temporal patterns of movements in juvenile flatfishes and their predators: underwater television observations. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 177:251–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cappo M, Harvey E, Malcom H, Speare P (2003) Potential of video techniques to monitor diversity, abundance and size of fish in studies of Marine Protected Areas. In: Beumer JP, Grant A, Smith DC (eds) World Congress on Aquatic Protected Areas. Australian Society for Fish Biology, North BeachGoogle Scholar
  11. Cappo M, De’ath G, Speare P (2007) Inter-reef vertebrate communities of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park determined by baited remote underwater video stations. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 350:209–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clarke KR, Gorley RN (2006) PRIMER v6: User Manual/Tutorial. PRIMER-E Ltd, PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  13. Clarke KR, Warwick RM (1994) Changes in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation. Natural Environmental Research Council, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  14. Costanza R, d’Arge R, de Groot R, Farber S, Grasso M, Hannon B, Limburg K, Naeem S, O’Neill RV, Paruelo J, Raskin RG, Sutton P, van den Belt M (1997) The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387:253–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cullen-Unsworth LC, Unsworth RKF (2013) Seagrass meadows, ecosystem services and sustainability. Environment 55:14–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dale AL, Chesworth JC (2013) Inventory of eelgrass beds in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Section One: Report. Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, HampshireGoogle Scholar
  17. Egerton J (2011) Management of the seagrass bed at Porth Dinllaen. Initial investigation into the use of alternative mooring systems. Unpublished report for Gwynedd Council, CaernarfonGoogle Scholar
  18. Elliott M, Oreilly MG, Taylor CJL (1990) The forth estuary—a nursery and overwintering area for North-Sea fishes. Hydrobiologia 195:89–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fjosne K, Gjosaeter J (1996) Dietary composition and the potential of food competition between 0-group cod (Gadus morhua L) and some other fish species in the littoral zone. ICES J Mar Sci 53:757–770CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ford JR, Williams RJ, Fowler AM, Cox DR, Suthers IM (2010) Identifying critical estuarine seagrass habitat for settlement of coastally spawned fish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 408:181–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Froese R, Pauly DE (2013) FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication version (09/2013)Google Scholar
  22. Gibb FM, Gibb IM, Wright PJ (2007) Isolation of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) nursery areas. Mar Biol 151:1185–1194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gillanders BM (2006) Seagrasses, fish, and fisheries. In: Larkum AW, Orth RJ, Duarte CM (eds) Seagrasses: biology, ecology and conservation. Springer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  24. Harvey E, Shortis M (1995) A system for stereo-video measurement of sub-tidal organisms. Mar Tech Soc J 29:10–22Google Scholar
  25. Hinder SL, Peters JR, McCloskey RM, Callaway RM, Unsworth RKF (2013) Investigating sensitive marine habitats around Wales using Stereo Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVs). CCW, BangorGoogle Scholar
  26. Jackson EL, Rowden AA, Attrill MJ, Bossey S, Jones M (2001) The importance of seagrass beds as a habitat for fishery species. Oceanogr Mar Biol 39:269–304Google Scholar
  27. Jackson EL, Attrill MJ, Jones MB (2006a) Habitat characteristics and spatial arrangement affecting the diversity of fish and decapod assemblages of seagrass (Zostera marina) beds around the coast of Jersey (English Channel). Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 68:421–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jackson EL, Attrill MJ, Rowden AA, Jones MB (2006b) Seagrass complexity hierarchies: Influence on fish groups around the coast of Jersey (English Channel). J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 330:38–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jackson EL, Griffiths CA, Durkin O (2013) A guide to assessing and managing anthropogenic impact on marine angiosperm habitat—Part 1: Literature review. Book 111. Natural England Commissioned Reports, PeterboroughGoogle Scholar
  30. Jephson T, Nystrom P, Moksnes PO, Baden SP (2008) Trophic interactions in Zostera marina beds along the Swedish coast. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 369:63–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Johnson M, Edwards M, Bunker F, Maggs C (2005) Algal epiphytes of Zostera marina: Variation in assemblage structure from individual leaves to regional scale. Aquat Bot 82(1):12–26. doi: 10.1016/j.aquabot.2005.02.003
  32. Langlois TJ, Harvey ES, Fitzpatrick B, Meeuwig JJ, Shedraw G, Watson DL (2010) Cost-efficient sampling of fish assemblages:comparison of baited video stations and diver videotransectsAquat Biol 9:155–168Google Scholar
  33. Orth RJ, Carruthers TJB, Dennison WC, Duarte CM, Fourqurean JW, Heck KL, Hughes AR, Kendrick GA, Kenworthy WJ, Olyarnik S, Short FT, Waycott M, Williams SL (2006) A global crisis for seagrass ecosystems. Bioscience 56:987–996CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pihl L, Baden S, Kautsky N, Ronnback P, Soderqvist T, Troell M, Wennhage H (2006) Shift in fish assemblage structure due to loss of seagrass Zostera marina habitats in Sweden. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 67:123–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Priede IG, Bagley PM, Smith KL (1994) Seasonal change in activity of abyssal demersal scavenging Grenadiers Coryphaenoides-(Nematonurus)-Armatus in the Eastern North Pacific-Ocean. Limnol Oceanogr 39:279–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Shortis MR, Harvey ES (1998) Design and calibration of an underwater stereo-video system for the monitoring of marine fauna populations. Int Arch Photo Rem Sens 32:792–799Google Scholar
  37. Tupper M, Boutilier RG (1995) Effects of habitat on settlement, growth, and postsettlement survival of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). Can J Fish Aquat Sci 52:1834–1841CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Unsworth RKF, McCloskey RM, Peters J, Hinder SL (2014) Optimising stereo baited underwater video for sampling fish and invertebrates in temperate coastal habitats. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci. doi: 10.1016/j.ecss.2014.03.020 Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. R. Peters
    • 1
  • R. M. McCloskey
    • 1
  • S. L. Hinder
    • 1
  • R. K. F. Unsworth
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Seagrass Ecosystem Research Group, College of Science, Wallace BuildingSwansea UniversitySwanseaUK

Personalised recommendations