In November 2013 I wrote an article for the Lizard website entitled “Marine life at The Manacles recommended for protection”. Now, over three years later, there are thirteen designated features of The Manacles Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) covering a diverse range of species and habitats, from the pink sea fan and sea fan anemone, to sedimentary habitats and rocky reef. In May this year, Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (CIFCA) completed a drop down video survey within the MCZ. The images taken during this survey capture beautifully the diversity of habitats within this relatively small site and I have included a few of my favourites for this article. Thanks to Colin Trundle and CIFCA for the images.
CIFCA Manacles 2016 pink sea fan
This first image is dominated by pink sea fans (Eunicella verrucosa, centre top), dead man’s fingers (Alcyonium digitatum, right) and rosy feather stars (Antedon bifida, centre), all competing for space on the little rocky ‘island’ among the coarse sediment along with jewel anemones, encrusting algae and sponges to name but a few.
CIFCA Manacles 2016 urchin
The second image is of the common urchin Echinus esculentus. I love the simplicity of the image of this urchin making its way across the sand in search of food. These urchins are omnivores and they have a varied diet which includes seaweeds and encrusting invertebrates.
CIFCA Manacles 2016 cobbles
The third image shows a mixed habitat of gravel, pebbles and cobbles. The longer you look, the more there is to find! There are red and brown seaweeds, encrusting pink algae, sponges, toothpaste worms, topshells and hydroids. Take a look and see what else you can spot. Almost every surface is entirely covered in life; it really is diverse.
CIFCA Manacles 2016 corals
The last image again shows some bedrock reef, this time dominated by cup corals (Leptopsammia pruvoti), jewel anemones (Corynactis viridis) and a carpet of sponges, encrusting pink algae and hydroids such as sea beard (Nemertesia antennina) which project straight upwards from the rock. There is also some ross ‘coral’ (Pentapora foliacea, centre left) which is actually a type of erect bryozoan.
Images such as these, and the spectacular video footage from this survey, are incredibly important for engaging people with the marine environment and for helping to explain why such habitats are important. Not everyone wishes to or gets an opportunity to experience habitats such as these, whether by diving, snorkelling or even watching them in real time on a boat through a video link to the seafloor! So thank you CIFCA for bringing The Manacles MCZ to life for us.
Published: Dec 2016
Author: Charlotte Marshall, Marine Lead Adviser