South-west Sula Sgeir and Hebridean slope
(Marine Protected Area)
United Kingdom: Scotland
Located to the north-west of the Western Isles in offshore waters, the South-west Sula Sgeir and Hebridean Slope pMPA (Possible Nature Conservation MPA) descends down the continental slope into the relatively cold and dark depths of the Rockall Trough.
The slope is covered by several different habitats, including sandy sediments, deep sea mud and examples of burrowed mud. The possible MPA also includes several internationally important seabed forms, notably „iceberg ploughmarks‟ – the scars created by fast flowing streams of ice in the last glacial period.
A range of different habitats are present within the pMPA, influenced by the changing water depths. The seabed on the slope is dominated by important sand and gravel habitats. Here, crabs shelter under small rocks and urchins, rays and starfish roam the surface looking for their next meal. Pockets of burrowed mud are present, characterised by the burrows formed by animals such as mud shrimp and deep sea crabs. At the dark depths of 1.3 km along the bottom of the slope, marine plants are unable to grow; however, the mud supports a rich array of animals that can tolerate the environmental conditions. Sea life is found living in and on the mud, including sea urchins, sea spiders, and deep sea worms.