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Benthic Habitat Variations Over Tidal Ridges, North Sea, The Netherlands

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Author: Dijk, T.A.G.P. van · Dalfsen, J.A. van · Lancker, V. van · Overmeeren, R.A. van · Heteren, S. van · Doornenbal, P.J.
Type:bookPart
Date:2012
Publisher: Elsevier Inc.
Source:Seafloor Geomorphology as Benthic Habitat, 241-249
Identifier: 480180
doi: doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-385140-6.00013-X
ISBN: 9780123851406
Keywords: Geosciences · Benthic habitat · Netherlands Continental Shelf · North Sea · Open marine ecosystems · Sand waves · Seabed morphology · Tidal ridges · Tidal sand banks · Geological Survey Netherlands · Energy / Geological Survey Netherlands · Earth & Environment · GM - Geomodelling · EELS - Earth, Environmental and Life Sciences

Abstract

Marine ecosystems on continental shelves endure an increasing burden of human activity offshore, and the impacts on benthic habitats are not well known. An improved understanding of how benthic habitats vary in relation to substrate types and seabed features is therefore essential to both scientists and offshore developers. This case study shows that marine habitats over two tidal ridges in the North Sea vary from low-density/low-diversity communities on the well-sorted sandy crests of ridges to high-density/high-diversity communities in the poorly sorted muddy, gravelly sediments in the adjacent troughs. On sandy continental shelves, including the Netherlands Continental Shelf (NCS) in the North Sea, tidal bedforms occur of different spatial scales, such as sand banks (tidal ridges), sand waves, and megaripples. Marine habitat maps reveal that benthic habitats vary spatially on continental shelves in relation to seabed morphology, water depth, and sediment composition. The different morphological elements of tidal ridges are expected to accommodate different benthic habitats. Some tidal ridge areas in the North Sea are nominated to become marine protected areas, but are also attractive for their marine aggregates and may be designated in part as mining areas. Due to their composition and shallow water depths, tidal ridges are also suitable locations for the construction of offshore wind farms. To date, the characteristics of relatively inaccessible seabeds are too poorly understood to explain the effects of physical parameters on benthic communities. Therefore, it is important to expand our understanding of benthic habitat variations associated with tidal ridges, for the benefit of both science and offshore development. © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.