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01 July 2005 — More than 150 different species found on ship wrecks in Belgian waters

Belgian scientists study the biodiversity of ship wrecks while diving: they want to find out how many different species live on the wrecks. The divers take pictures of the animals on the wrecks and a certain amount of animals is being collected. Ship wrecks increase the biodiversity of the sea because they are an ideal substrate for sessile animals to attach for example shells and anemones that can not fix themselves to a sandy bottom.

Four ship wrecks in the Belgian part of the North sea are being studied: Birkenfels, Kilmore, Bourrasque and Sperrbrecher142. They have been chosen for their length, good state, position and they sunk more than 10 years ago, so the colonisation by animals already took place.

MUMM started in 2000 with the scientific diving off the research vessel Belgica to take samples of the wrecks. In the mean time, 5 research teams with the necessary expertise are working together on this research.

Researchers found more than 150 different animal species on the wrecks: 12 fish species, 2 jelly fish species, and more than 140 sessile or slow moving organisms (bigger than 1 mm) like crustaceans, anemones, polyps, worms, sponges, shellfish, starfish and crabs. It is clear that the wrecks have a much higher biodiversity than the surrounding sandy bottom around. Certain polyps or shells have been labelled as rare before, but they are found in big amounts now. There are even species that have not been found in Belgium before: Diadumene cincta (anemone) en Caprella tuberculata (crustacean) are new Belgian species.

 Map showing the position of the wrecks

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