The aim of this survey is to provide descriptions of the littoral and sublittoral habitats and associated communities of the Republic of Ireland. Assessments of the biological interest and nature conservation importance of the area will be made from the data collected.
Sites are selected to give a broad spread of the habitats and communities likely to occur in the area. Inspection of Admiralty charts and Ordnance Survey maps indicated the topography, range of wave exposures and tidal currents in the area.
Sublittoral sites are surveyed by scuba diving from a rigid inflatable boat and littoral sites by direct observation on the shore. Sites are surveyed following the procedures laid out Hiscock (1990). For each site, and habitats within each site, a description was made of the main physical and biological features. The relative abundance of all conspicuous species present are recorded, categorised as rare, occasional, frequent, common, abundant or super abundant using the scales in Hiscock (1990). Habitats are selected from the main biological subzones and range of substrata present. Details of each site were recorded on sublittoral/littoral site sublittoral habitat and littoral habitat forms which facilitate data collation and transfer a database.
Photographs are taken to illustrate the range of habitats, communities and species present at as many of the sites as possible. All photographs were taken using a Nikon F4 (enclosed in an Aquatica underwater housing with a 20 mm wide angle lens for sublittoral pictures) on Kodachrome 64 and 200 film.
Specimens are collected to improve in situ identification skills and to contribute to a voucher collection of the species present in the survey area. Specimens will be lodged in the National Museum, Dublin. A voucher collection algae present in the area and those that could not be identified are sent to Prof. M. Guiry, University College, Galway for identification. All records of these specimens are added to the appropriate habitat forms to be included in the data analysis.
All data collected during the survey is entered into a database at Trinity College, Dublin developed by the MNCR of the JNCC(UK) (Mills 1991). The species data is analysed using TWINSPAN (Hill 1979) allowing the records to be separated into broad groupings. The groupings form the basis for biotopes descriptions from the survey area.
For the purpose of information review and survey reporting it was necessary at the start of the Irish project to split the Irish coast into 8 sectors. The divisions take account of biogeographical and physiographical changes at locations around the coast.
Hill, M.O. 1979. TWINSPAN - a FORTRAN program for arranging multivariate data in an ordered two-way table by classification of the individuals and attributes. Ithaca, New York, Cornell University.
Hiscock, K. 1990. Marine Nature Conservation Review: methods. Nature Conservancy Council, CSD Report, No. 1072. (Marine Nature Conservation Review Report, No. MNCR/OR/5.).
Mills, D.J.L. 1991. Marine Nature Conservation Review: data handling systems. Nature Conservancy Council, CSD Report, No. 1192. (Marine Nature Conservation Review Report, No. MNCR/OR/12.).