Secrets of Fair Isle sea caves revealed


An in depth-up of a Devonshire cup coral hooked up to a raised cave shelf. Diamond Cave, Fair Isle. Credit: Graham Saunders

Heriot-Watt divers have documented the hidden lifetime of a lot of Fair Isle’s distant sea caves for the primary time.

Marine surveys earlier this summer season documented round 70 caves on the island, with dive groups battling weather conditions to hold out full organic surveys of 4.

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These included a spectacular 200 meter-long cave on the west of the island often known as Diamond Cave.

Stunning pictures from beneath the waves present the attribute sea cave habitats and species found, together with corals, sponges and seasquirts.

Fair Isle is dwelling to Scotland’s solely Demonstration & Research Marine Protected Area (MPA), designated in 2016.

The information gathered will assist to map the ocean caves round Fair Isle in additional element and enhance data about habitats and species within the community-led MPA, in addition to sea caves round Scotland’s shoreline extra extensively.

The surveys had been commissioned by NatureScot and carried out by a workforce of divers from Heriot-Watt University.

Carol Hume, NatureScot Marine Protected Areas Adviser, stated: “With so many challenges going through a survey of this type—not least the climate and remoteness of this particular Scottish island—we had been actually delighted to achieve Fair Isle and full work with the survey workforce.

To have gathered info for round 70 sea caves is a implausible achievement and, together with 4 organic surveys, has given us a a lot larger understanding of those hidden habitats throughout the MPA.

“While the sea caves have been explored by local residents and divers, this is the first extensive and systematic documentation. It was an extremely special survey to be part of and we were hugely welcomed by the local community for which we’re really grateful.”

Dr. Dan Harries, a marine ecologist at Heriot-Watt University stated: “The shoreline of Fair Isle is breathtakingly spectacular and it was a privilege to doc the ocean caves and their inhabitants.

“The majority of the ocean caves had been very shallow, so their partitions had been closely scoured: the sand and stones on the underside swirl across the cave throughout heavy seas, scrubbing off any life that may cling to the partitions.

“The caves with deeper floors are where richer communities had established themselves. Some cave walls were decorated with sponges, including the delicate ‘lace sponge,” others with dense thickets of oaten pipe hydroids, that are associated to jellyfish and corals.

“The deeper caves were also home to the aptly-named baked bean sea squirt, which looks exactly as you might imagine.”

The Fair Isle Demonstration and Research MPA is a community-led designation, with the goal of supporting analysis to increase understanding of the native marine atmosphere, implement impactful conservation measures and illustrate the affect of small communities on coverage improvement.

Stewart Thomson, a member of the Fair Isle neighborhood, stated: “As a participant within the Fair Isle Marine Environment and Tourism Initiative (FIMETI), and a onetime scuba diver, I used to be very within the cave survey workforce’s go to in August. I used to be happy that the island was given a chat demonstrating what they had been discovering, and explaining how and why the assorted organisms and animals select to stay in such seemingly difficult habitats; and stressing their significance within the wellbeing of marine life.

“It is in understanding all aspects of life over and under the sea which is so important in identifying what needs to be done, in order to supervise the proper management of the marine environment, and I know the isle population very much appreciated their efforts, and will support any project which can improve our knowledge of something that we all rely on.”

The workforce additionally carried out surveys to fill in data gaps about Priority Marine Features (PMFs) round Orkney, together with horse mussel beds, flame shell beds and seagrass.

Fair Isle Bird Observatory—Watching the birdwatchers

Secrets of Fair Isle sea caves revealed (2021, September 13)
retrieved 13 September 2021

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