Biodiversity & Conservation

Sabellaria spinulosa with kelp and red seaweeds on sand-influenced infralittoral rock


<i>%Sabellaria spinulosa%</i> with kelp and red seaweeds on sand-influenced infralittoral rock
Distribution map

IR.MIR.SedK.SabKR recorded (dark blue bullet) and expected (light blue bullet) distribution in Britain and Ireland (see below)

  • EC_Habitats

Marine natural heritage importance

Listed under EC Habitats Directive
National importance Not available
Habitat Directive feature (Annex 1) Reefs

Biotope importance

  • Few species are believed to feed on Sabellaria spinulosa although it may be an important source of food for the pink shrimp Pandalas montagui. The biotope may also provide important feeding grounds for fish. The presence of brittle stars can provide a food source for mobile species such as predatory starfish (Asterias rubens, Marthasterias glacialis and Luidia ciliaris) or wrasse.
  • Kelps provide a substratum for a large number of epiphytic flora and fauna (see habitat complexity) and it has been estimated that the rugose stipes of Laminaria hyperborea provide one and a half times the surface area provided by the bedrock (Jones et al. 2000). Holdfasts support a diverse fauna that represents a sample of the surrounding mobile fauna and crevice dwelling organisms, e.g. polychaetes, small crabs, gastropods, bivalves, and amphipods. Kelps can also provide refuge for nurseries, reduce current flow and ameliorate wave exposure, allowing more delicate organisms to survive in the shallow sublittoral. Shading by the canopy allows shade tolerance algae, especially Rhodophyceae to extend into the upper infralittoral. Kelps beds are an important primary producer of organic carbon for surrounding communities (Birkett et al. 1998b).


  • Kelps have been harvested for the alginate industry which produces valuable emulsifiers and gelling agents for cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industry. Laminaria hyperborea is harvested commercially in Norway, Brittany, Scotland and Ireland. However, kelps are probably not present in high enough density in the MIR.SabKR biotope for harvesting to take place.
  • Echinus esculentus is an important structuring species and is collected commercially but not in numbers that would adversely affect the biotope. It was the object of a specific fishery in Cornwall in the 1980s. Nichols (1981) pointed out that although most divers missed small specimens within kelp beds, population densities should not be allowed to fall below 0.2 per metre to conserve the species in the UK. The possibility of a sea urchin fishery in Shetland for the Japanese market has been investigated recently (Penfold et al. 1996).
  • It is possible that if the marine aquarium trade continues to develop, species such as Urticina felina may be targeted. Removal of this species from the biotope will probably only cause a reduction of diversity and not have much effect on the viability or function of the biotope itself.

Additional information icon Additional information

No additional information.

This review can be cited as follows:

Hill, J.M. 2001. Sabellaria spinulosa with kelp and red seaweeds on sand-influenced infralittoral rock. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 28/11/2015]. Available from: <>