Friday, 22 August 2014

Porlock Bay rare species found in marine study

22 August 2014 Last updated at 02:22

For the first time in 30 years, marine life in Porlock Bay, in Somerset, has been studied by divers for a scientific survey commissioned by the Wildlife Trusts.

Four professional divers took part in the study where they unexpectedly found two different and diverse sea bed habitats.

Crustaceans such as this long clawed squat lobster were recorded in a boulder reef north of Gore Point in the Bristol Channel, along with many sponge species. The other site studied was a sand and shell plain in the centre of Porlock Bay.

These large molluscs are called sea hares of which several were found during the two dives held at the beginning of August.

It is the first time this rare stalked jellyfish was recorded in this area. This jellyfish features in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan which means it could need targeted protection in the future as it is sensitive to environmental changes in its habitat.

Divers brought back small samples which have been analysed microscopically so they can be identified by species type. This record will help build up a picture of the biodiversity of each site. This particular species is called a branching sponge.

On both occasions, divers experienced difficulties in getting to the two dive sites due to strong currents which affected visibility. It is because of these challenges that the sites have not been explored for 30 years. The Wildlife Trusts said they have been surprised by the variety of species found in this area. They hope by knowing more about the habitat they can conserve it more effectively in the future.

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