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Special Areas of Conservation

Darwin Mounds

Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Country UK Offshore waters
Unitary Authority Extra-Regio
Centroid*
Latitude 59.7583
Longitude -7.2167
SAC EU Code UK0030317
Status Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Area (ha) 137726
* This is the approximate central point of the SAC. In the case of large, linear or composite sites, this may not represent the location where a feature occurs within the SAC.
Location of Darwin Mounds SAC

General site character

  • Marine areas, Sea inlets (100%)

Download the Natura 2000 standard data form for this site as submitted to Europe (PDF <100kb)

Note When undertaking an appropriate assessment of impacts at a site, all features of European importance (both primary and non-primary) need to be considered.

Annex I habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site

  • 1170 Reefs

    The Darwin Mounds is an extensive area of sandy mounds formed by seabed fluid expulsion, each of which is capped with multiple thickets of Lophelia pertusa, a cold-water coral. These thickets qualify as Annex I Reef according to the European Commission interpretation (CEC, 2007). The number of thickets vary per mound and may be between one and several metres wide and high. Hundreds of mounds lie within the site but two particularly dense fields of mounds are present to the north east and north west limit of the area (Bett, 2001). Each of the mounds is approximately 100m in diameter and 5m high, and distinguished by a 'tail' feature visible on sidescan sonar. The mounds support significant populations of the xenophyophore Syringammina fragilissima (a 15 cm diameter single celled organism) that is widespread in deep waters, but occurs in particularly high densities on the mounds and the tails (Bett, 2001).The occurrence of Lophelia pertusa reef as thickets capping sandy mounds is believed to be unique due to the particular geological processes which formed the mounds and the fact that the coral is growing on sand rather than a hard substratum (Masson et al, 2003). The individual reefs on each mound provide a habitat for various species of larger invertebrates such as sponges and brisingiid starfish.

Annex I habitats present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for selection of this site

  • Not Applicable

Annex II species that are a primary reason for selection of this site

  • Not Applicable

Annex II species present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

  • Not Applicable

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.