A broad-scale long-term dataset of Sabellaria alveolata distribution and abundance curated through the REEHAB (REEf HABitat) Project

Numerous reef-forming species have declined dramatically in the last century, many of which have been insufficiently documented due to anecdotal or hard-to-access information. One of them, the honeycomb worm Sabellaria alveolata (L.) is a tube-building polychaete that can form large reefs, providing important ecosystem services such as coastal protection and habitat provision. It ranges from Scotland to Morocco, yet little is known about its distribution outside of the United Kingdom, where it is protected and where there is a strong heritage of natural history and sustained observations. As a result, online marine biodiversity information systems currently contain haphazardly distributed records of S. alveolata. One of the objectives of the REEHAB project (http://www.honeycombworms.org) was to combine historical records with contemporary data to document changes in the distribution and abundance of S. alveolata. Here we publish the result of the curation of 331 sources, gathered from literature, targeted surveys, local conservation reports, museum specimens, personal communications by authors and by their research teams, national biodiversity information systems (i.e. the UK National Biodiversity Network (NBN), https://nbn.org.uk/) and validated citizen science observations (i.e. https://www.inaturalist.org/). 80% of these records were not previously referenced in any online information system. Additionally, historic field notebooks from Edouard Fischer-Piette and Gustave Gilson were scanned for S. alveolata information and manually entered.  Each of the 21512 S. alveolata records were checked for spatial and taxonomic accuracy, particularly in the English Channel and the North Sea where incorrectly identified observations of intertidal Sabellaria spinulosa were recorded. A further 54 observations are recorded as ‘Sabellaria spp.’ as the available information did not allow for an identification to species level. Many sources reported abundances based on the semi-quantitative SACFOR scale whilst others simply noted its presence, and others still verified both its absence and presence. The result is a curated and comprehensive dataset spanning over two centuries on the past and present global distribution and abundance of S. alveolata.

Sabellaria alveolata records projected onto a 50km grid. When SACFOR scale abundance scores were given to occurrence records, the highest abundance value per grid cell was retained.


Biological oceanography


68.930333N, 27.575403S, 37.441406E, -11.25W


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Curd Amelia, Cordier Celine, Firth Louise B., Bush Laura, Gruet Yves, Le Mao Patrick, Blaze Julie A., Board Callum, Bordeyne François, Burrows Michael T., Cunningham Paul N., Davies Andrew J., Desroy Nicolas, Edwards Hugh, Harris Daniel R., Hawkins Stephen J., Kerckhof Francis, Lima Fernando P., McGrath David, Meneghesso Claudia, Mieszkowska Nova, Nunn Julia D., Nunes Flavia, O’ connor Nessa E., O’ riordan Ruth M., Power Anne Marie, Seabra Rui, Simkanin Christina, Dubois Stanislas (2020). A broad-scale long-term dataset of Sabellaria alveolata distribution and abundance curated through the REEHAB (REEf HABitat) Project. SEANOE. https://doi.org/10.17882/72164

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