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The Humber Regional Environmental Characterisation

Tappin, D.R.; Pearce, B.; Fitch, S.; Dove, D.; Gearey, B.; Hill, J.M.; Chambers, C.; Bates, R.; Pinnion, J.; Diaz Doce, D.; Green, M.; Gallyot, J.; Georgiou, L.; Brutto, D.; Marzialetti, S.; Hopla, E.; Ramsay, E.; Fielding, H.. 2011 The Humber Regional Environmental Characterisation. Marine Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund, 345pp. (OR/10/054)

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Abstract/Summary

The Humber Regional Environmental Characterisation (REC) is a multidisciplinary marine study of the geology, biology and archaeology of an area of 11 000 km2 off the east coast of England. It was funded by the Marine Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund (MALSF). 2. Within the REC area, there are 12 active aggregate licences with applications submitted for 10 more. Within the region there is also gas production, wind energy development, and intensive shellfish harvesting. Without proper management of the sea bed areas there could be conflict over development of resources in the area. 3. The overall objective of the REC project was to provide integrated broadscale seabed maps in order to support the sustainable management of offshore resources now and into the future. The basis of the maps is a regional assessment of the physical, biological and archaeological environment. Here for the Humber REC area we present the results of each individual project element together with their integration into a holistic overview of the marine environment. 4. In addition to SeaZone single beam bathymetry, data from three geophysical and one sampling survey provided the basis for the interpretation. BGS legacy data supplemented the new data set. In total these data provided a sound basis for reporting on the regional character of the geology, biology and archaeology of the area. 5. The geology of the Humber REC area is characterised by a western gravelly region, a sandy eastern one and a transitional area in between. Outside of large sand banks and areas of sand waves the mobile sediment cover is thin. The terminations of the outer Norfolk Banks are located in the southeast of the area, and a series of low amplitude sinuous and linear banks are found in the southwest and centre. A number of arcuate and linear deeps, with a radial pattern incise the seabed. 6. The morphology and sediment distribution are attributed to a number of episodes; initially the region was glaciated and the Bolders Bank till Formation was laid down. After deglaciation the till was eroded to leave a thin coarse-grained relict deposit. As sea level rose the area was transgressed, the relict deposit winnowed and fine grained sediment was transported into the area from the south. This sediment was reworked into the sand banks and sand waves present today over much of the sea bed. The dominance of gravelly sediment in the nearshore areas is the result of strong currents. 7. The Humber REC area is a region which is rich in archaeology, with finds ranging from the Palaeolithic to World War II. The archaeological material in the Humber REC region can be found both on and beneath the seabed. This archaeological material can be grouped into three main categories, prehistoric, maritime and aviation, all of which are present within the study area. 8. Several locations of archaeo-environmental potential were discovered during the Humber REC which directly relate to the regions prehistoric archaeological potential. Most of this potential is present in major channel systems within the south and east of the study area and dates to the Mesolithic period. 9. The submerged prehistoric resource has been characterised. This has been derived from the spatial mapping for the Mesolithic period. Evidence for earlier periods of prehistory is limited within the study area. The characterisation of the Mesolithic landscape indicates that where suitable preservation conditions exist there may be a large resource of material present. 10. The maritime archaeological resource from the late 19th century onwards can be located across the study area and has also been spatially mapped and characterised. No evidence was found for pre 19th century wrecks, despite documentary evidence indicating their presence. 11. The Humber REC area has also been a focus for aviation activity, particularly during World War II, and correspondingly, wrecked aircraft are likely. As most aircraft break up on impact, the wreckage is not commonly intact and can be hard to locate. As such, the number of aircraft wreck sites known to be present within the study area is assumed to represent only a small proportion of incidents, but are possibly more likely in areas on routes to and from World War II targets such as nearby airbases and Kingston upon Hull. 12. Analysis of the biological data collected across the Humber REC study area revealed four functional biological communities. 13. The most common community ‘infaunal polychaetes with burrowing bivalves and amphipods’ was recorded across much of the mid and eastern sections of the study area in sandy deposits. The second most abundant community was characterised by ‘barnacles, ascidians and tubiculous polychaetes’ and was associated with coarser, mixed sediments with suitable areas for attachment. In some areas where the REC study area was influenced by higher levels of sand this community was replaced by a ‘Sabellaria spinulosa reef’ community. A small number of locations, in both mixed and sandy sediments, were found to support a very sparse biological community. 14. The biological communities were found to correlate strongly with the composition of sediment deposits, but were also influenced by shear bed stress and stratification of the water column. Predicted biotope distributions maps were created for the Humber REC study area utilising the EUNIS habitat classification scheme and habitat suitability modelling. Both methods yielded maps which are suitable for marine management purposes. However, since the EUNIS scheme forces a split on a limited set of environmental variables, which did not correlate strongly with the biological communities, it was felt that this method led to an overly complicated map with many communities occurring in multiple habitats.The EUNIS habitat model and RECHUM functional community model were combined to create a full coverage biotope model equivalent to EUNIS Level 5. 15. A number of rare and alien species were identified across the Humber REC study area including the tiny bivalve Coracuta obliquata This is only the second record of this species from British waters in the last 100 years. The invasive American Slipper limpet was also observed and it is thought that these records may indicate a northwards shift in the range of this species, possibly associated with a warming climate. 16. Potentially important Annex I reef habitats were found in association with the Silver Pit. The reefs were predominantly created by the Ross worm Sabellaria spinulosa although high densities of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis were also identified. It seems likely that there is a cyclical succession occurring between these two reef building species driven by minor changes in environmental conditions and recruitment success.

Item Type: Publication - Report (UNSPECIFIED)
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2010 > Marine Geoscience
ISBN: 9780907545385
Funders/Sponsors: Marine Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund (MALSF)
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Report and data also available for free download from URL above
Date made live: 05 Sep 2011 13:25
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/15037

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