The Big Sea Survey is a volunteer based project looking into marine species biodiversity in the north east of England. The project is aiming to gather ecological data on the range and distribution of coastal marine species in the north east of England. The project also aims to engage local volunteers in the collection of this data through a programme of ecological monitoring programmes whilst raising awareness about the pressures which face our marine environment.
The north east of England has a diverse range of coastal habitats which make up two European Marine Sites, one in Northumberland and one in Teesmouth, and which are protected for the species which live here.
Marine habitats are subjected to a variety of pressures including climate change, overfishing, pollution, increased connectivity and habitat loss. The north east coast despite being diverse has suffered from some of these impacts over recent decades. The region is today an example of how these pressures have been overcome and how nature and industry can coexist.
The UK also sits on an important biogeographic boundary between warm and cold waters. This has important implications for the species living in marine habitats in this area with many reaching their northern or southern range edges in the UK. The North Sea provides a unique cold water refuge for these species which may become increasingly important as sea temperatures rise and this area becomes squeezed. It is unclear how species in this area will respond to these changes. Marine species provide good indicators for how these changes might start to affect our biodiversity.
The Big Sea Survey aims to create and feed into a baseline data set of information for the region, providing a comprehensive idea of which marine species are common to our shores. This information will help to produce a databank of biodiversity records and coastal indicators for environmental change.
The information collected as part of the project will be invaluable to scientists and coastal managers helping to inform decisions about the protection of our rich biodiversity, whilst also providing information about which species will be sensitive to climate change, habitat loss or pollution impacts. The project records the abundance and distribution of rocky shore species.