This project was a Special Area of Conservation condition assessment survey carried out as part of a 6 year assessment programme. It included diving and Geographic Information modelling.
Fugro EMU Limited were contracted to undertake a diving project in the summer to autumn of 2015, to monitor the species composition attributes of subtidal reef features of the South Wight Maritime Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Diving operations were conducted between the 7 and 10 September 2015. The remainder of the week was aborted due to poor weather conditions. Diving operations could not be undertaken during the first five days of the second planned week, due to poor on site weather conditions. The remainder of the diving operations were conducted on the 26 and 27 September.
The present survey was to repeat a diving section of a survey undertaken in 2003 by Bunker et al. (2005). The aim was to initiate a repeatable monitoring programme against which the condition of the reef features could be measured in the future. Of the original eight sites, six were successfully surveyed. The two remaining sites were not surveyed due to unfavourable weather conditions.
Quadrat sampling was supported by a Phase 2 survey of each habitat type, video and stills images were taken to support the data. A reference collection of pressed algal specimens was requested and 68 algal species were successfully collected and preserved. As raw data from the 2003 survey were not available for statistical comparison, the analyses addressed the robustness of the 2015 data and generated a list of characterising species that could then be compared with the lists provided in the 2005 report (Bunker et al.). Using the gathered data, habitat types or biotopes were allocated to each site, reviewed against the 2005 report and any changes in allocation between 2005 and 2015, addressed. An alga rarely found in UK waters was sampled at Site 5 to the north of the Needles and subsequently was identified with high certainty to be Flabellia petiolata, a largely Mediterranean species.