News from the CEDaR Team
6 January 2020
Rathlin Dive Expedition 2019.
By Sally Stewart-Moore. Marine Data Office, CEDaR
Data collected through recreational recording and citizen science is often used, alongside statutory survey data, for marine governance, however, there are fewer cases of recreational and statutory marine surveys being conducted in unison. Here, we provide a recent example of how recreational recorders and government agencies can work in partnership to monitor a special area of seabed off the north east coast of Northern Ireland.
Back in May of this year (2019), I joined a group of divers from all across Europe (Ireland, Scotland, England and Sweden) as they explored the seabed around Rathlin Island. While their mission was to record Nudibranchs (a type of sea slug), mine was to gather their underwater photos and use them to construct a much broader species list.
The rich diversity of flora and fauna occurring on the seabed surrounding Rathlin Island was first reported in the 1980s by David Erwin and his dive team, including Bernard Picton, from Ulster Museum (now National Museums Northern Ireland). Erwin described pristine boulder and cobble habitats that supported rare and diverse faunal communities of branching sponges, hydroids (sea firs) and bryozoans (sea mats), all of which provide an important food source for many marine invertebrates, including Nudibranchs.
Both King scallop Pecten maximus and Queen scallop Aequipecten opercularis were also found living amongst the boulders, cobbles and adjacent sand on the seabed around Rathlin, however the presence of these scallops, a valuable commercial species, made Rathlin a desirable site for scallop dredging. Knowing about the negative impacts that this method of fishing was having on similar habitats in Scottish waters at the time, Erwin suggested that the marine zone around Rathlin Island be granted full Marine Nature Reserve status and that the seabed be designated as a ‘no take zone’.
Unfortunately in 1989, before Rathlin was assigned with any sort of environmental designation, the first signs of seabed damage from scallop dredging were observed around the island, with photos from divers showing overturned boulders alongside mutilated sponges. Almost 20 years later, when Rathlin and its surrounding marine area was designated as a Special Area of Conservation, the seabed remained open to scallop dredging. In 2009, divers surveying the seabed after dredging activity captured images of trawl scars and displaced invertebrates, including the sea pen Virgularia mirabilis, and Alcyonium digitatum, a soft coral known commonly as ‘dead man’s fingers’. Subsequently, the seabed around Rathlin Island was deemed to be in an unfavourable condition and a voluntary bottom-towed fishing ban within the SAC was agreed between DAERA and the Rathlin Island community. This was replaced by the Rathlin Island (Prohibited Methods of Fishing) Regulations in 2016, making it an offence to use bottom-towed fishing gear within the SAC, and now within the boundary of the Rathlin Marine Conservation Zone, which was designated in 2017.
Since the ban was imposed in 2016, species and habitat data has been gathered from within the Rathlin Marine Protected Area through both statutory and recreational recording initiatives. This was combined with data gathered from the Rathlin Dive Expedition in May 2019 to describe the current species composition and associated habitats of the seabed around the island. This was compared with information from the 1980s, before scallop dredging began, thus enabling the effectiveness of the ban to be assessed.
Overall, over 5000 images were collected by 11 divers from 14 distinct sites during the Rathlin Dive Expedition. Following analysis of the images at CEDaR, a total of 989 species occurrence records were collected, covering 371 species, 17 of which are included on the current Northern Ireland Priority Species list. While the overall species composition was similar to that described in the 1980s, suggesting an element of recovery at the sites previously targeted by dredgers, due to the longevity and sensitivity of these species communities, the seabed around Rathlin is still considered to be ‘Unfavourable recovering’. It may be many years before a ‘Favourable’ status is reached, if ever, but this project has demonstrated that the introduction of the dredging ban has enabled the faunal communities on the seabed around Rathlin to show signs of recovery.
The production of this report would not have been possible without the images and information provided on a voluntary basis by the divers participating in the Rathlin Dive Expedition. In order to thank them, the DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division hosted the group for an evening at the Rathlin Manor House at the end of the week.
Rathlin Islanders were also invited along to this event to hear a talk from Bernard Picton about the rich species communities that the group were exploring. The islanders also took part in voting for their favourite photos from the week: George Brown winning the Nudibranch category and Katrina Dick’s twin fan worm Bispira volutacornis winning the best ‘other’ species. Michael Lundin’s diving guillemot shot was also highly commended.
All in all, the Rathlin Dive Expedition exemplified how statutory research teams can work in collaboration with the recreational diving community to gather valuable seabed data that supports local marine monitoring.
The full report for the Rathlin Dive Expedition, including images and site descriptions, can be read here: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/rathlin-island-dive-expedition-2019-citizen-science-project
The full species dataset from the Rathlin Dive Expedition is available to view on the NBN Atlas Northern Ireland: https://northernireland-records.nbnatlas.org/occurrences/search?q=cl92%3A%22Rathlin%22&fq=rank%3A*&qc=cl28%3A%22Northern%20Ireland%22&fq=year%3A%222019%22#tab_mapView
Undisturbed boulder habitat with diverse sponge, hydroid Overturned boulder and dislodged sponges following
and bryozoan communities off Rathlin, 1984. dredging activity off Rathlin in 1989
Scarce tube-dwelling anemone, Arachnanthus sarsi, Bryozoa and Hydroid communities on gravel habitat,
Rathlin, May 2019 Rathlin, May 2019
The divers that participated in the Rathlin Dive Expedition in Bernard Picton providing a talk about the Nudibranchs of
May 2019, joined by Sally Stewart-Moore, CEDaR Marine Rathlin Island to the Rathlin Islanders in the Manor.
George Brown and Katrina Dick with their prizes for the Katherine Dick’s winning photo of the twin fan worm
winning photos from the week, alongside Gary Burrows & Bispira volutacornis
Clara Alvarez-Alonso from the DAERA Marine & Fisheries
Division (and Mike Markey photobombing in the background!).
Michael Lundin’s photo of a diving common guillemot off The group returning from Rathlin following the event at
Bull Point. the Manor House.
22 November 2019
More than Moths are Attracted to Light: Some Interesting Caddisfly Identifications.
By Pamela Thomlinson
Caddis fly Agrypnia varia, County Antrim and Lough Sheelan. Photographer: Cathal McNaughton
Early in 2019 Pauline Campbell informed me that Professor James O’Connor , who had just retired, was willing to identify caddis flies. As I moth trap regularly in my garden, for the Garden Moth Scheme, for Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club, RSPB and Butterfly Conservation outings and Bioblitzs I had already started to look at other species attracted to light.
It was exciting to have an offer of expert identification for these quite difficult species.
As you will see caddisflies came to my traps throughout the months of May through to September.
Professor O’Connor was very helpful with instructions about how to freeze or preserve the specimens successfully with a minimum of damage to them while they were being stored or in the post to Dublin. Freezing worked well, then placing them in small specimen tubes with a small piece of paper to stop moving around in transit as did preserving in 70% Isopropyl Alcohol. The latter is best if the specimen may need to be pinned.
The specimens identified are listed below:-
1.Caddisflies sent for identification May 2019
Lowwood , Belfast County Antrim, J3378, 18th May 2019
Limnephilus auriculus 1834 1
2.Glencraig, County Down J4381, 25th May 2019
Limnephilus auriculus 1834 1
Caddisflies sent for identification - 24 August 2019
1. Montiaghs Moss, County Antrim J0965, 29th July 2019
Glyphotaelius pellucidus 1
Limnephilus auricula 1
Limnephilus flavicornis 1
2. Jubilee Farm, near the Glynn River, Larne, County Antrim J3999, 22nd June 2019
Limnephilus auricula 2
Hydropsyche siltalai 1
The H. siltalai probably flew from the Glynn River.
3 Lowwood, County Antrim J3378, 22nd June 2019
Limnephilus auricula 2
Glyphotaelius pellucidus 2
Agrypnia varia 2
Ceraclea senilis 1
The C. senilis record is the second one for Northern Ireland. Prof O’Connor and his wife took two males in County Fermanagh several years ago.
The A. varia and C. senilis probably flew from the nearby ponds on the Milewater
Caddisflies sent for identification 11 September 2019
Lowwood , Belfast County Antrim, (J3378), 15 August 2019
Limnephilus sparsus Curtis, 1834 1
Limnephilus affinis Curtis, 1834 1
RSPB Lagoon, Harbour Estate, Belfast (J3778), County Down, 2 September 2019
Hydropsyche instabilis (Curtis, 1834) 1 New to County Down
Potamophylax cingulatus (Stephens,1837)
Prof O’Connor commented that it was nice to see the L. auricula from County Antrim as these are new county records, as well as the Hydropsyche instabilis which is a new record for County Down.
As we near the end of this recording session it is very satisfying to look back on a new series of records achieved thanks to Professor O’Connor for making it possible and Pauline Campbell for putting me in touch.
24 June 2019
Launch of the NBN Atlas Northern Ireland
On Wednesday 29 May, the CEDaR partnership launched the NBN Atlas Northern Ireland, a new online platform that provides access to species- and site-based information from across Northern Ireland and its coastal waters. The website is hosted by the National Biodiversity Network (NBN). Since 2000, initially via the Gateway and now through Atlas, NBN has championed the sharing of biological data within the UK.
Based on the Atlas of Living Australia infrastructure, the NBN have produced regionally specific Atlases for Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man. The bespoke NBN Atlas Northern Ireland is the newest addition to this suite of tools and is tailored to provide locally specific information and knowledge.
The various terrestrial, freshwater and marine data sets and the habitats data stored by CEDaR are submitted to the NBN Atlas Northern Ireland on a monthly basis. Once uploaded, they are available to view, analyse and download. The Atlas is linked to local natural history resources, such as the Habitas suite of websites, and it also provides users with information on the various ‘record submission portals’, local recording schemes, recording initiatives, events, etc.
The launch event, at Ulster Museum, Belfast, allowed the CEDaR partnership to demonstrate the capabilities of this exciting new website and was attended by key stakeholders and members of the wider environmental recording community. The guest speakers for the evening were Mr William Blair (Director of Collections, National Museums NI), Mr Richard Gray (Head of Biodiversity & Conservation Science Unit, Northern Ireland Environment Agency) and Dr Jo Judge, (Chief Executive Officer, NBN). All provided context for the Atlas, and its strategic potential for contributing to environmental management and monitoring and ultimately the protection of sites and habitats throughout Northern Ireland and its coastal waters. The speeches were followed by a live demonstration of the website (now available to view on CEDaR’s new You Tube channel).
Finally, the official launch of the Atlas was carried out by our MC for the night, Mr Conor Macauley (BBC NI Agriculture and Environment Correspondent).
The Atlas is now live, but it is under continued development; as and when feedback is received from our network of local users.
So please, visit the NBN Atlas Northern Ireland, search for your species or location of interest, explore the great wealth of data, information and knowledge that is available. Most importantly, let us know what you think and provide the partnership with your feedback!
To visit the NBN Atlas Northern Ireland, see: https://northernireland.nbnatlas.org/.
To watch a demo of the NBN Atlas Northern Ireland, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1G00LGpPuU&t=130s.
To find out about additional local natural history resources, see: http://www.habitas.org.uk/
Guests mingling in the Welcome Zone of Ulster Museum during the launch event.
Conor Macauley, BBC NI Agriculture and Environment Correspondent, opening proceedings.
Dr Jo Judge, NBN CEO, providing context behind the launch of NBN Atlas Northern Ireland.
Guests are provided with a live demonstration of the NBN Atlas Northern Ireland.
19 February 2019
The Italians are coming!
The story of invasive organisms in Ireland repeatedly pops up. I led a CEDaR Workshop on alien introductions a couple of years back and since then news of new faunal acquisitions has increased steadily.
The latest arrival is an Italian millipede called Ophyiulus germanicus (don’t be confused by the name, it is north Italian, not German). This is a large black species masquerading as the ubiquitous white-legged millipede Tachypodoiulus niger. It is superficially very similar so you need to get out a hand lens and look at the tail. In the white-legged this is quite short and has a small upturned hook at the end. In Ophyiulus germanicus the tail is long and pointed not bent upwards. This species is also highly active. When picked up it whips about like a snake, twisting and turning until it escapes. Some other millipedes do this as well but not so violently. It grows to about 1½ inches (38 mm) and is one of the largest species found in Ireland. Favourite roosts are under dead wood and large stones, curled up in the soil, and it particularly favours disturbed woods, hedges, parks and gardens. The photos below show the whole animal and its tail in close-up.
Ophyiulus germanicus, Newtownbreda, tail inset.
It appears to have come from nowhere to being very common. The first confirmed records are for 2015, based on material in my collection but I first identified it in January of this year (2019) in my garden. Searching around Belfast it has turned up abundantly along the Lagan Valley as far as Lisburn, as well as at Cultra (CEDaR HQ!), Hillsborough and Peatlands Park. So, potentially very widespread but we have no idea when it first appeared here or how widespread it actually is. Anyone with information can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those requiring technical details of its appearance please consult Steve Gregory’s paper online at http://www.bmig.org.uk/view/resource/bmig-bulletin. Apart from the present note I haven’t published anything on it yet.
Tachypodoiulus niger, Newtownbreda, tail inset.
Three other north Italian millipedes have already naturalised here: Anamastigona pulchella, a small reddish species, starting in Delamont Country Park in 1992 and now widespread; Polydesmus asthenestatus a small flatback millipede, first found at Minnowburn west of Belfast in 2008 and spreading rapidly; Cylindroiulus apenninorum found in Dixon Park dump in 2017 and now moving slowly through the nearby Park. If you wish to learn more about these species visit the BMIG (British Myriapod and Isopod Group) website. A quick scan of this site will show just how many new millipedes have appeared in Britain and Ireland in recent years. A trend which is sure to continue but is very little understood.
22 October 2018
Carlingford Lough Marine BioBlitz
This October, CEDaR ran a marine Bioblitz weekend around the shores of Carlingford Lough. The outcome from the BioBlitz are summarized here.
Nestled between the Mourne Mountains to the north and the Cooley Mountains to the south, Carlingford Lough and its surroundings are enjoyed by many for its natural beauty, interesting archaeology and geology and also as a mecca for outdoor adventure sports. The rich biodiversity of the area is another draw and it is protected under a number of environmental designations, including the Carlingford Lough Marine Conservation Zone. As well as recreation, the lough also supports a range of commercial activity, but despite increasing uses and pressures, the ecological systems of the lough remain relatively ‘under-studied’ and for this reason, the idea for a BioBlitz event came about.
CEDaR support BioBlitz events throughout the year but it has been 5 years since the last Marine BioBlitz. The Carlingford Lough Marine BioBlitz brought together a group of environmental recorders, of all ages and backgrounds, with varied levels of experience and from both sides of the border to explore the flora and fauna around the lough. As well as connecting with the recording community and promoting marine recording, the purpose of the event was to fill evidence gaps and in doing so support environmental monitoring and management around the lough.
On Saturday 6th October 2018, 10 divers from SEASEARCH NORTHERN IRELAND (a citizen science project which utilises recreational scuba divers to collect data on underwater species and habitats) boarded the Louth Adventure’s RIBs from Greenore and headed out to the first dive site: ‘Buoy no. 9’. The visibility was remarkably good and a variety of sponges, crustaceans and fish were recorded, including the diver’s favourite, a Tompot blenny. The divers also observed butterfish displaying extraordinary breeding behaviours. Meanwhile, those of us at the surface were treated to gannets diving and a fleeting glimpse of harbour porpoises. During the second dive, off the shore at Greenore, sea squirts, anemones and echinoderms were
abundant and dazzling footage of swimming feather stars was captured. By the end of the day, 83 species records had been recorded by Seasearchers and meanwhile, marine experts and a team from COASTWATCH Ireland were already out exploring the shore and collecting information on intertidal species as well as the occurrence of litter.
Over 20 participants convened in Kilbroney Forest Park in the morning before braving the weather and dispersing, either to record seabirds and waders with Jen Lynch and Rasmus Pederson from BIRD WATCH IRELAND at Rostrevor Green or to join ULSTER WILDLIFE on guided ferry surveys to observe marine mammals.
Interesting sightings from Rostrevor Green included the Red-breasted merganser, the Great crested grebe, large numbers of Redshank and Oystercatcher and the endangered Curlew. In addition toabundant seabirds, the ferry surveyors counted 19 common seals, a protected species in Northern Ireland which can be found hauled out at a number of sites around Carlingford Lough.
In the afternoon, participants targeted the dropping tide, either moving onto Narrow Water Keep with Bird Watch Ireland, joining in on CoastWatch surveys or setting off independently to explore the shore for marine invertebrates, seaweeds, flowering plants or lichens, whilst also keeping an eye out for shark, skate or ray egg cases in the driftline to feed into the SEADEEP project.
Overall the Carlingford Lough Marine BioBlitz was a great success and a huge thanks goes to all those who played a role in organising, running or participating in the event. Across the whole weekend, a total of 257 species were recorded, covering 20 taxon groups and including 25 marine priority species, 7 invasive species and 8 species which had not been recorded in the lough previously. These records will make a valuable contribution to the future protection of this ecologically rich area. A full species list is provided below.
A full species list is provided below.The species list from the weekend is available here.
- 46 participants
- 257 species, including:
25 Northern Ireland Priority Species
7 Invasive Species
- First Northern Ireland record for the Spear-Leaved Orache
- First Carlingford Lough record for:
Mouse Ear Snail Myosotella denticulata
Encrusting sponge Myxilla fimbriata
Sea squirt Pyura microcosmus
Caloplaca thallincola (Lichen)
Collemopsidium foveolatum (Lichen)
Lecania turicensis (Lichen)
Opegrapha calcarea (Lichen)
- 2 dogfish egg cases
- 1 sighting of a red squirrel from Warrenpoint Wood, coinciding with the ‘marine’ Bioblitz!
Links for all the organisations and projects mentioned are listed here:
Seasearch Northern Ireland: http://www.seasearch.org.uk/
Coast Watch: http://coastwatch.org/europe/
CEDaR Online Recording: https://www2.habitas.org.uk/records/home
Sea Deep NI: https://www.seadeepni.org/about
THE CONSERVATION VOLUNTEERS: https://www.tcv.org.uk/
ULSTER WILDLIFE: https://www.ulsterwildlife.org/
BIRD WATCH IRELAND: https://www.birdwatchireland.ie/
15 August 2018
Divers contribute to monitoring marine litter
Monitoring marine litter is vital for identifying its source and tackling the problem. We have analysed litter records collected by Seasearch divers to assess how this previously untapped dataset might provide additional information to support research.
You can read the full report here: Seasearch Marine Litter Records 2018 (pdf 2.29mb)
For more details contact Sally Stewart-Moore email@example.com
Photo Credit: Phil Wilkinson
1 May 2018
National Plant Monitoring Scheme
Volunteers are being sought to monitor wild flower and plant populations across Northern Ireland.
The National Plant Monitoring Scheme is an important UK-wide survey to assess habitats and ecosystems, as well as species and diversity.
We generally have a good understanding of changes in the populations of birds, butterflies and bats. However, plants are the foundation of habitats and ecosystems, yet currently we do not have a good measure of changes in plant populations across the country.
CEDaR and NIEA are joining forces to roll out this initiative in Northern Ireland. All the information you need to take part in this monitoring scheme will be provided and you will be guided through the process.
For more details, and to find out which squares are available near you, log on to the National Plant Monitoring Scheme website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org