Biodiversity & Conservation

Ophiothrix fragilis and/or Ophiocomina nigra beds on slightly tide-swept circalittoral rock or mixed substrata

CR.MCR.EcCr.CarSp.Bri


MCR.Oph

Image Bernard Picton - Ophiothrix fragilis and/or Ophiocomina nigra beds on slightly tide-swept circalittoral rock or mixed substrata. Image width ca 1 m.
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Distribution map

CR.MCR.EcCr.CarSp.Bri 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 Widespread
Habitat Directive feature (Annex 1) Reefs
Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time
Large shallow inlets and bays

Biotope importance

Brittlestars are predated on by a range of fauna that may visit the biotope. For example, Ophiothrix is preyed upon by crabs, dragonets and plaice although it does not appear to be a major food item for any of them (Warner, 1971). Ophiura are known to be a common prey for flatfish such as plaice (Downie, 1990 cited in Hughes, 1998) and Warner (1971) reported poor cod Trisopterus minutus shoaling over brittlestar beds in Torbay.

Exploitation

  • Brittlestars have no economic value and brittlestar beds are not important habitats for commercial fishing and so the biotope is unlikely to be exploited. In fact dense brittlestar beds are generally avoided by fishing operations because the animals tend to foul fishing nets (Aronson, 1989). Reduced fish stocks, due to fishing, may actually result in increased brittlestar beds because predation will be reduced (Aronson & Harms, 1985).
  • However, brittlestar beds have attracted much scientific interest as they are living examples of an 'anachronistic' community, similar to the dense aggregations of epifaunal suspension-feeders dominating Paleozoic (570 - 245 million years ago) marine soft sediments (Hughes, 1998).
  • Although brittlestar beds do occur elsewhere in the world the British beds are the best-known examples of their kind and have the longest history of scientific study and are therefore, generally regarded as of conservation importance.

Additional information icon Additional information

Can be protected as Reefs and also potentially within Sandbanks slightly covered by sea water at all times and Large shallow inlets and bays.


This review can be cited as follows:

Hill, J.M. 2001. Ophiothrix fragilis and/or Ophiocomina nigra beds on slightly tide-swept circalittoral rock or mixed substrata. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 23/08/2014]. Available from: <http://www.marlin.ac.uk/habitatimportance.php?habitatid=278&code=2004>