The South-east Fladen pMPA (Possible Nature Conservation MPA) lies within the Fladen Grounds, a large area of mud in the northern North Sea named after the German word “fladen” meaning “flat cake”. The pMPA includes a particular type of mud habitat called burrowed mud which is characterised by feather-like soft corals called sea pens, and the burrows made by crustaceans such as mud shrimp and the Norway lobster. Burrowed mud is an interesting and important marine habitat that supports a rich community of animals. Delicate feather-like sea pens anchor themselves in the mud surface, and filter the passing currents for food. Burrowing species can be found living within the mud itself. Their burrowing activity plays an important role in supporting life in the area; the constant churning of the mud releases nutrients and helps to mix oxygen into the mud. Longer lasting burrows also provide shelter to other marine life from the starfish and sea urchins that patrol the muddy surface looking for food.
The possible MPA includes an exceptional example of „pockmarks‟ or craters formed by methane seeping from the seafloor. The unique communities associated with these methane derived structures are protected within a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The pockmarks have been well studied and are considerably bigger than other pockmarks found within the North Sea. They are considered to be geologically important.
Site options in the network
Representation of burrowed mud within the Fladen Grounds could be achieved by either taking forward Central Fladen pMPA in its entirety, or just the tall seapen “Core” part of Central Fladen with either the South-east Fladen or Western Fladen pMPA option.