Strangford Lough Ecological Change Investigation (SLECI)

Data set information

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Data holding centreNorthern Ireland Environment Agency
CountryUnited Kingdom  United Kingdom
Time period2003-2004
Geographical area

Strangford Lough (Northern Ireland)


Macroalgae and seagrass taxonomy-related counts; Zooplankton and zoobenthos morphological parameters; Habitat characterisation; Habitat extent; Zoobenthos non taxonomy-related wet weight biomass per unit area of the bed; Macroalgae generic abundance in water bodies; Plankton abundance per unit volume of the water column; Zoobenthos dry weight biomass; Zooplankton taxonomy-related abundance per unit volume of the water column; Zoobenthos taxonomic abundance; Zooplankton and zoobenthos physiological condition parameters; Zoobenthos taxonomy-related counts; Zoobenthos taxonomy-related wet weight biomass per unit area of the bed; Plankton biomass expressed as carbon per unit volume of the water column; Zooplankton and zoobenthos development stage parameters; Zoobenthos generic abundance; Phytoplankton taxonomic abundance in water bodies; Microzooplankton taxonomic abundance in water bodies


Plankton nets; pelagic trawl nets; sediment grabs; observers


The horse mussel, Modiolus modiolus, is a bivalve mollusc, which, in Strangford Lough forms biogenic reefs. These represent a major feature of scientific interest in the Strangford Lough candidate Special Area of Conservation (SAC) as notified to the European Commission in 1996. Late in 2001, concerns and evidence began to emerge that there had been a serious decline in the extent and nature of Modiolus biogenic reefs as well as the biotic communities associated with these habitats. Dives undertaken on behalf of Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) confirmed that there had been a collapse in the populations at several sites in the Lough. In addition to changes in the Modiolus reef feature, a number of other environmental changes had been reported; these included an increase in starfish and seasquirt (ascidean) populations and a collapse in the queen scallop fishery. There was considerable publicity regarding these changes in Strangford Lough and EHS initiated an urgent programme of investigation into the cause or causes, i.e. SLECI. An important element of the investigation was a diving survey conducted during the summer of 2003, revisiting sites originally recorded between 1978 and 1983. The preliminary results of this diving survey were a further cause for concern and EHS published these findings on 22 December 2003. For the full report click here; Fisheries Division of the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) responded by temporarily closing Strangford Lough to fishing using mobile gear on 1 December 2003.

OriginatorsNorthern Ireland Environment Agency, Water Management Unit
Data web site
OrganisationNorthern Ireland Environment Agency
AvailabilityBy negotiation
ContactAnne Murray (Biodiversity Enquiries)

Northern Ireland Environment Agency
Klondyke Building
County Antrim, Northern Ireland
United Kingdom

Telephone(028) 9054 6502
Collating centreBritish Oceanographic Data Centre
Local identifier1104001
Global identifier900
Last revised2009-10-19