German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)

Mainmenu



Sylt Outer Reef SAC


Transcript of the Sylt Outer Reef SAC video

The Sylt Outer Reef Special Area of Conservation (SAC) is notable for its size and rich biodiversity, where sandbanks teeming with food alternate with what for the North Sea are exceptionally colourful reefs. The site provides a habitat for many fish species, rare and endangered sea birds and marine mammals. Covering some 5,314 km2 and with water depths increasing to the west from 8 m to 48 m, the site includes the Sylt-Amrum Outer Grounds and the north-east flanks of the Elbe glacial valley. The site’s classification was mainly based on the main distribution ranges of harbour porpoises and the presence of sandbank and reef habitat types.


Fact sheet for Sylt Outer Reef SAC
(In German)
Sylt Outer Reef
EU-Code: DE 1209-301
(In German)
Coordinate of Centroid:
7°20’00" E 54°55’00" N
Habitat types Sandbanks 87km²
Reefs 154km²
Species/Population Harbour porpoise
(Phocoena phocoena)    
1.001-10.000
Common seal
(Phoca vitulina)
1.001-10.000
Grey seal
(Halichoerus grypus)
11-50
River lamprey
(Lampetra fluviatilis)
Recorded, no current population statistics
Twait shad
(Alosa fallax)
Recorded, no current population statistics

Alternating sandbanks and reefs

Sea urchin (Echinus esculentus) and sea anemones. Photo: Hübner/Krause (BfN)
Photo: Sea urchin (Echinus esculentus) and sea anemones. Photo: Hübner/Krause (BfN)

The Amrum Bank is a representative sandbank with a large diversity of habitats ranging from fine sand to coarse sand and gravel. Various characteristic communities of seabed fauna have developed there as a result. Characteristic coarse sand communities of the Amrum Bank include:

  • Goniadella Spisula (tube worm/clam)
  • Fine sand communities such as tellin (Tellina fabula)
  • Communities with long-lived bivalve species.

The site’s reefs are unique in the offshore reaches of the German North Sea. They trace a rocky band along the flanks of the Elbe glacial valley. The central Amrum Bank also has patches of boulders and cobble fields. The site is home to epifauna communities characteristic of hard substrates, with species such as sea anemone, edible sea urchins, dead man’s fingers, sea squirts, hornwrack and sponges.

Harbour porpoises

Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) with calf. Photo: S. Gust
Photo: Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) with calf. Photo: S. Gust
Diving grey seal (Halichoerus grypus). Photo: S. Bär
Photo: Diving grey seal (Halichoerus grypus). Photo: S. Bär

The protected area is especially important for harbour porpoises. The densest concentrations of harbour porpoises in the entire German North Sea have been recorded here, making it a key site for conservation of the species. Regular sightings of mother-calf pairs and hot spots with up to 50 porpoises spotted in a ten-minute watching period show the site to be a major calving and mating habitat. The Sylt Outer Reef directly borders the harbour porpoise conservation area west of Sylt. This is so far the only cetacean conservation area in the North Sea. The high density of harbour porpoises also suggests large numbers of potential prey fish.

Common seal and grey seal also use the site as a feeding habitat or traverse it as they move between feeding sites and resting and reproduction sites. Grey seals currently only reproduce on the Knobsände off Amrum and Heligoland. Strong seasonal fluctuations in population suggest a large amount of movement between these locations and other resting sites and colonies around the North Sea, for example on the British coast. This makes conserving suitable migration corridors a key priority.

Other Habitats Directive Annex II species covered by the conservation objectives for the site are twait shad and river lamprey, which find important marine habitats here in search for food and for wintering.


Bell hydroid (Tubularia larynx). Photo: Hübner/Krause (BfN)
Photo: Bell hydroid (Tubularia larynx). Photo: Hübner/Krause (BfN)
Dead man’s fingers (Alcyconium digitatum). Photo: Hübner/Krause (BfN)
Photo: Dead man’s fingers (Alcyconium digitatum). Photo: Hübner/Krause (BfN)

Conservation objectives

General conservation objectives have been set as follows for the habitat types and species by which the site is defined:

  • Maintenance and restoration of the site’s specific ecological functions, biological diversity and natural dynamics
  • Maintenance and restoration at favourable conservation status of habitat type Code 1110 (sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time) and habitat type Code 1170 (reefs) together with their characteristic and endangered ecological communities and species
  • Maintenance and restoration at favourable conservation status of the following Habitats Directive species and their natural habitats: Harbour porpoise, common seal, grey seal, river lamprey and twait shad.

Hermit crab (Pagurus bernhardus). Photo: BfN
Photo: Hermit crab (Pagurus bernhardus). Photo: BfN
Dragonet (Callionymus lyra). Photo: BfN
Photo: Dragonet (Callionymus lyra). Photo: BfN

Natura 2000 sites in the German North Sea EEZ:

 

North sea

Dogger Bank

Sylt Outer Reef

Borkum Reef Ground

Eastern German Bight

 Print