Discovery of a marine life hotspot in the North Sea


Scientists from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences have just discovered surprising aquatic fauna in Belgian waters.

Ecologically important species have been observed, such as numerous colonies of "Yellow Alcyon" soft coral and specimens of European flat oysters that were thought to have disappeared from our sea beds decades ago. A range of molluscs, crustaceans, fish and plants such as the bryozoans Flustra foliacea (hornwrack) and Nemertesia antennina (sea beard) were also spotted.

Fragile life has just been discovered in a zone that has been severely disturbed by human activity, particularly commercial fishing. It is also located under one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

But this has in no way hindered the resilience of this animal life, which thrives in biological reefs formed on the gravel beds. It is in fact the presence of these gravels, which form ecologically unique zones in the vast, predominantly sandy and muddy sea beds, that has allowed such abundant animal life to flourish.

Almost five square kilometres of this unsuspected area have already been located and mapped using the state-of-the-art oceanographic instruments on board the Belgian research vessel Belgica. For the Belgian scientists, this area can serve as a model for this habitat elsewhere in Belgian waters and, more broadly, in the southern North Sea region.

This is very encouraging news for all those fighting to maintain the biodiversity in our seas.