Thanet coast Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) monitoring report 2017-18.

Published online
12 Aug 2022
Published by
Natural England
Content type

Godsell, N. & Green, B.

Publication language
UK & North Sea


Under the UK Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is required to provide a report to Parliament every six years that includes an assessment of the degree to which the conservation objectives set for Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) are being achieved. In order to fulfil its obligations, Defra has directed the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) to carry out a programme of Marine Protected Area (MPA) monitoring. Where possible, this monitoring will also inform assessment of the status of the wider UK marine environment; for example, assessment of whether Good Environmental Status (GES) has been achieved, as required under Article 11 of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The Statutory Nature Conservation Body (SNCB) responsible for nature conservation inshore between 0 and 12 nm from the coast is Natural England. SNCBs utilise evidence gathered by targeted environmental and ecological surveys and site-specific MPA reports in conjunction with other available evidence (e.g. activities, pressures, historical data, survey data collected from other organisations or data collected to meet different obligations). These data are collectively used by SNCBs to make assessments of the condition of designated features within sites, to inform and maintain up to date site-specific conservation advice and produce advice on operations and management measures for anthropogenic activities occurring within the site. This report, as a stand-alone document, does not therefore aim to assess the condition of the designated features or provide advice on management of anthropogenic activities occurring within the site. This report explores environmental and ecological sample data, primarily acquired from a characterisation survey of the Thanet Coast MCZ in 2017-18 intended to serve as the first point in a monitoring time series. Anthropogenic pressures and their interaction with the data reported on here are considered by SNCBs at a later stage as part of condition assessment and management advice for this site. This report includes recommendations which inform continual improvement and development of sample acquisition, analysis and data interpretation for future survey and reporting. Site and feature specific indicator metrics are not currently defined for this site. Potential indicators, where identified, will be evaluated and considered for inclusion in recommendations for future reporting. This characterisation report is informed by data acquired during a dedicated survey carried out at the Thanet Coast Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) (during 2017-18) and will form part of the ongoing time series data and evidence for this MPA. The Thanet Coast MCZ is an inshore site located on the north Kent coast within the 'Southern North Sea' Charting Progress 2 (CP2) sea area. A number of Features of Conservation Importance (FOCI), including both habitats and species, are designated for protection within the Thanet Coast MCZ. This report provides a characterisation of a number of Broadscale Habitats (BSHs) ('A5.1 Subtidal coarse sediment', 'A5.2 Subtidal sand', 'A5.4 Subtidal mixed sediments', 'A3.2 Moderate energy infralittoral rock', 'A4.2 Moderate energy circalittoral rock'), Habitat FOCI (Blue Mussel Beds, Subtidal Chalk, Peat and Clay Exposures, Ross Worm (Sabellaria spinulosa) Reefs) and species FOCI (St John's Stalked Jellyfish (Calvadosia cruxmelitensis) and Stalked Jellyfish Haliclystus spp.) designated within the MCZ. Historical studies (Davies, 1995, Tittley et al., 1998 and Sheehan et al., 2015) have identified that the Thanet Coast subtidal area is particularly challenging to survey. Data generated from this Type-11 densely packed grid survey has formed a general picture of a dynamic subtidal environment subject to moderate/strong wave action and tidal streams. The infralittoral/circalittoral habitat boundary was shallow, likely due to highly turbid waters flowing out of the Thames estuary mixing with chalk particles from the surrounding rock (Tittley et al., 1998). The 'A3.2 Moderate energy infralittoral rock' BSH was not identified from the survey data collected. The sediment BSHs present off the more exposed east coast between North Foreland and Ramsgate were predominantly composed of impoverished sand and coarse sediment communities. Along the north coast, more complex mixed and mud biotopes were present indicating more sheltered conditions. The survey has generated evidence to indicate the presence of Blue Mussel Beds, Subtidal Chalk and Ross Worm (Sabellaria spinulosa) within the MCZ, however Peat and Clay Exposures were not found. The Stalked Jellyfish species FOCI was not observed due to the sampling techniques employed. Contaminant levels were generally below OSPAR Background Assessment Concentrations (BAC) in the four samples collected from across the site. However, heavy metal Effects Range-Low (ERL) exceedances were detected in the sample collected at station THNC30, off North Foreland. The ecological status for this sample and one collected from an adjacent station was 'moderate'. Given there is heavy shipping activity in this part of the MCZ (MMO, 2014) this may warrant further investigation. A number of recommendations for future assessment and monitoring of designated features within the Thanet Coast MCZ are provided.

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