Repeated mapping of reefs constructed by Sabellaria spinulosa Leuckart 1849 at an offshore wind farm site

Bryony Pearce*, Jose M. Fariñas-Franco, Christian Wilson, Jack Pitts, Angela deBurgh, Paul J. Somerfield

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)


    Sabellaria spinulosa reefs are considered to be sensitive and of high conservation status. This article evaluates the feasibility of using remote sensing technology to delineate S. spinulosa reefs. S. spinulosa reef habitats associated with the Thanet Offshore Windfarm site were mapped using high resolution sidescan sonar (410kHz) and multibeam echo sounder (<1m2) data in 2005 (baseline), 2007 (pre-construction baseline) and 2012 (post-construction). The S. spinulosa reefs were identified in the acoustic data as areas of distinct irregular texturing. Maps created using acoustic data were validated using quantitative measures of reef quality, namely tube density (as a proxy for the density of live S. spinulosa), percentage cover of S. spinulosa structures (both living and dead) and associated macrofauna derived from seabed images taken across the development site. Statistically significant differences were observed in all physical measures of S. spinulosa as well the number (S) and diversity (H[U+05F3]) of associated species, derived from seabed images classified according to the presence or absence of reef, validating the use of high resolution sidescan sonar to map these important biogenic habitats. High precision mapping in the early stages allowed for the micro-siting of wind turbines in a way that caused minimal damage to S. spinulosa reefs during construction. These habitats have since recovered and expanded in extent. The surveys undertaken at the Thanet Offshore Windfarm site demonstrate the importance of repeat mapping for this emerging industry, allowing habitat enhancement to be attributed to the development whilst preventing background habitat degradation from being wrongly attributed to the development.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-13
    Number of pages11
    JournalContinental Shelf Research
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2014


    • Acoustic mapping
    • Benthic habitat mapping
    • Marine spatial planning
    • Offshore wind energy development
    • Sabellaria spinulosa reef

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geology
    • Oceanography
    • Aquatic Science


    Dive into the research topics of 'Repeated mapping of reefs constructed by Sabellaria spinulosa Leuckart 1849 at an offshore wind farm site'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this