Research

As part of The Pier’s Tale project we have been carrying out research to discover more about life beneath the Pier.   Here are some of the things our researchers from Bournemouth University have found out so far…..

Scuba diving surveys - Seasearch Dive surveys beneath the pier using SCUBA took place on August 1st and August 31st 2017 from the boat Wight Spirit. The objective of the first dive, which was conducted by 3 pairs of divers, was to characterise and photograph the fauna and flora of the sea bed and the pier piles. Each survey lasted approximately 1 hour around slack water during neap tides. On the second dive, eastward transects were carried out by 3 pairs of divers to establish the distribution pattern of the seagrass Zostera marina around the pier. Surveys yielded a total of 92 species, including 43 marine algae, 48 species of invertebrates and fish and the seagrass Zostera marina. The most spectacular species observed was the cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) at the pier head.

Baited remote underwater video (BRUV) surveys - During the summer of 2017 we used a BRUV unit that consisted of a weighted aluminium frame and a GoPro Hero 3 camera within an underwater housing. A 1m pole extended in front of the camera and at the end of the pole was a bait cage filled with 100g of chopped fresh mackerel. To compare the mobile underwater life associated with the Pier with the surrounding habitats, a site to the east and west of the Pier were also surveyed. The BRUV surveys found 19 species around the pier, 12 species in the west control site and 13 species in the east control site. Species which were only observed around the pier were grey mullet (Chelon labrosus), Black Goby (Gobius niger), Two spot Goby (Gobiusculus flavescens), Tompot Blenny (Parablennius gattorugine) and Balions Wrasse (Symphodus bailloni).

Pier pile surveys - Surveys of the fauna and flora colonising the outer pier piles were surveyed to find out the percentage coverage of main species groups on the piles. This information will be used to compare coverage on the new piles later in 2018 and over the next few years.

Summary: From the BRUV surveys, there is no doubt the pier offers shelter and food to a relatively large number invertebrates and fish, which would otherwise either not be present or in much smaller numbers. Most spectacular are the large shoals of fish, including Pollack, Pouting, Wrasse species and Smelt, which may be seen beneath the structure, particularly in high summer. It is not certain why they should congregate around the pier, although it is suspected that they gain some shelter from the faster currents away from the structure, which may enable them to forage more efficiently on smaller species. Some may feed directly from the plants and animals living on the pier itself, although this was not observed. Bass, were seen immediately downstream of the pier piles, perhaps waiting to prey opportunistically on smaller fish struggling in the current. Large shoals of ‘baitfish’ (probably juvenile herring) were seen to move seawards along the east side of the pier on the ebbing tide and these would also be prey for Common terns.

 

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