Biodiversity & Conservation

Sabellaria alveolata reefs on sand-abraded eulittoral rock



Image Rohan Holt - Sabellaria alveolata reefs on sand abraded eulittoral rocks. Image width ca 150 cm.
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Distribution map

LR.MLR.Sab.Salv recorded (dark blue bullet) and expected (light blue bullet) distribution in Britain and Ireland (see below)

  • EC_Habitats
  • UK_BAP

Marine natural heritage importance

Listed under EC Habitats Directive
UK Biodiversity Action Plan
National importance Scarce
Habitat Directive feature (Annex 1) Reefs
Large shallow inlets and bays

Biotope importance

MLR.Salv can support a highly diverse associated fauna. Dias & Paula (2001), for example, recorded a total of 137 taxa associated with Sabellaria alveolata colonies in two areas on the Portuguese coast. In addition to the direct role of providing a habitat or substratum for a variety of flora and fauna, Sabellaria alveolata reefs may indirectly enhance species richness by stabilizing otherwise mobile shingle, pebbles and cobbles, for example, on cobble shores. Holt et al. (1998) reported that within the Lleyn Peninsula and the Sarnau SAC, sheets of Sabellaria alveolata "cement boulders and cobbles". These extensive sheets can form ridges on flat shores which trap water to create pools (Cunningham et al., 1984).

The biotope will vary in importance slightly with time as species come and go depending on the state of the reefs (Porras et al., 1996). If dense Fucus serratus is present then this may form a nursery ground for species such as Nucella lapillus. Such algae also provide substrata for species such as Spirorbis spirorbis as well as a feeding location for grazing molluscs including Patella vulgata and Littorina littorea. The surface of Sabellaria alveolata has been noted to possibly provide a barrier to limpets. No species are noted for feeding on Sabellaria alveolata itself.


Sabellaria alveolata reefs are sometimes exploited by fishermen as a source of bait although this is only carried out on a very small scale.

Additional information icon Additional information

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This review can be cited as follows:

Jackson, A. 2005. Sabellaria alveolata reefs on sand-abraded eulittoral rock. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 26/11/2015]. Available from: <>