Biodiversity & Conservation

Serpula vermicularis reefs on very sheltered circalittoral muddy sand



Image David Connor - A colony of tube worms forming a small reef, Loch Creran. Image width ca 40 cm.
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Distribution map

SS.CMS._.Ser 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 Rare
Habitat Directive feature (Annex 1) Reefs
Large shallow inlets and bays

Biotope importance

The biotope supports a mobile fauna of fish, crabs, whelks and echinoderms, which use the reefs for feeding, refuge and egg-laying (Moore et al., 1998; Poloczanska et al., 2004).


  • Small scale collection of Serpula vermicularis by divers for commercial aquaria takes place in Loch Creran (Moore, 1996). It appears that this limited collection is sustainable but there are no estimates of the maximum sustainable rate of removal making predictions of the effects of increased collection difficult (Holt et al., 1998).
  • Although the Pecten maximus population is probably too low to attract scallop dredgers, reef areas often contain reasonable stocks of the queen scallop, Aequipecten opercularis, and there are occasional reports of shallow-water dredging in Loch Creran in Scotland (Moore et al., 1998b).

Additional information icon Additional information

Although 'reefs' are an Annex 1 feature, the EC Habitats Directive make no mention of 'biogenic reefs' (Holt et al., 1997). However, the possible citing of biogenic reefs as a specific reason for selecting SACs is under review and may be proposed in the future (Brown et al., 1997).

This review can be cited as follows:

Hill, J.M. & Wilding C.M. 2008. Serpula vermicularis reefs on very sheltered circalittoral muddy sand. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 01/12/2015]. Available from: <>