Seabed habitats

There is a great diversity of seabed habitats, with over 1,000 different types identified across the regional seas of Europe. These vary from the coral reefs found in the cold, dark depths of the North-east Atlantic Ocean to the seagrass meadows found in the clear, warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Lophelia pertusa is a reef- forming cold water coral found in in the North-East Atlantic

Photo: Lophelia pertusa is a reef- forming cold water coral found in in the North-East Atlantic

Source: © JNCC

Reporting by Member States under the Habitats Directive showed that 66 % of the biogeographic assessments for nine marine habitats showed 'unfavourable’ conservation status, with only 9 % showing 'favourable’ conservation status. The remainder were reported as 'unknown' or 'not assessed'. Results from MSFD assessments were even more uncertain, with the status of 76 % of all seabed habitats determined as 'unknown'. This statistic reflects the inadequacy of current levels of reporting and perhaps the difficulty of monitoring and assessing marine habitats.

Several pressures influence seabed habitats e.g. physical loss and damage, extraction of fish and shellfish, and eutrophication

Conservation of marine habitats per biogeographic region as reported under the Habitats Directive


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Relevant MSFD Descriptors

Descriptor 1. Biodiversity is maintained

 The quality and occurrence of habitats and the distribution and abundance of species are in line with prevailing physiographic, geographic and climatic conditions.

Descriptor 6. The sea floor integrity ensures functioning of the ecosystem

Sea-floor integrity is at a level that ensures that the structure and functions of the ecosystems are safeguarded and benthic ecosystems, in particular, are not adversely affected.