Description of [Caryophyllia smithii], sponges and crustose communities on wave-exposed circalittoral rock
This biotope typically occurs on the upper and vertical faces of wave-exposed, moderately strong to weakly tide-swept, circalittoral bedrock or boulders, with a water depth range of 20-30m. This often silty biotope has a typically sparse fauna, appearing grazed, and is characterised by common cup corals Caryophyllia smithii, frequent Alcyonium digitatum and occasional urchins Echinus esculentus. There may be occasional large growths of the sponge Cliona celata, Haliclona viscosa, Pachymatisma johnstonia and the axinellid sponge Stelligera stuposa. Echinoderms form a prominent feature of the fauna within this biotope, with species such as Marthasterias glacialis, Asterias rubens, Luidia ciliaris, Henricia oculata, Holothuria forskali, Antedon bifida and Aslia lefevrei present. Bryozoan crusts such as Parasmittina trispinosa and encrusting red algae cover the rock/boulder surface. The bryozoan Porella compressa may also be recorded occasionally. Isolated clumps of hydroids feature species such as Nemertesia antennina, Nemertesia ramosa, Abietinaria abietina, Halecium halecinum and Sertularella gayi. Other species observed include the anemone Corynactis viridis, Urticina felina, Sagartia elegans, Calliostoma zizyphinum, Balanus crenatus and Pomatoceros triqueter. Two variants within this biotope have been distinguished: units A4.2122 and A4.2121. While A4.2122 tends to have the bryozoans Pentapora foliacea and P. compressa, while A4.2121 features a dynamic community of brittlestars covering the seabed in a dense mat. Ophiothrix fragilis is usually the dominant species in shallow water but tends to be replaced by Ophiocomina nigra in deeper water.