The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust is celebrating the Government announcement of the designation of fifteen new Marine Protected Areas around the UK coast. Included in the newly protected sites is an area at the entrance to The Wash known as Inner Dowsing, North Ridge and Race Banks.
It’s an area of sandbanks covering 350 square miles that is home to diverse communities of creatures. One of the most important features are the living reefs created by the ross worm, Sabellaria spinulosa. These worms build tubes from sand and large numbers of them create expansive structures that can be raised up to 60 centimetres above the seabed and that can persist for many years. This stable reef habitat allows other animals to become established.
Amongst the sandbanks and reefs are creatures which look so plant or seaweed-like that you may not realize they are animals at all. There are tiny animals called bryozoans that live colonially, superficially like corals but looking more like seaweed; there are soft, boneless sea squirts that are more closely related to animals with backbones like humans than to other boneless creatures; as well as filter-feeding sponges that draw water into their bodies through numerous pores; and plant-like hydroids whose fine stinging tentacles collect minute prey from the water.
The sandbanks and reefs are also home to sea potatoes, flattened sea urchins and sand digger shrimps. There are spawning and nursery grounds for herring, lemon sole, sole, plaice, cod, lobster and crab; and the area is visited by harbour porpoises, seals and seabirds.
Paul Learoyd, Chief Executive of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust said: "We welcome this designation for an important area of Lincolnshire’s sea. It is a significant step towards the UK Government realising its commitment to establishing an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas. The next eighteen months represent a further critical phase of the process, as Government looks to establish a network of Marine Conservation Zones by 2012. We also need to ensure that there are some areas that are fully protected."
"These recent designations recognise important features, such as the Sabellaria reefs, but it doesn’t mean that no activity will take place. Wind turbines for example could still be constructed within the designated area however, now the developer will have to show that there will be no adverse impact on the important features."