Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

Benthic habitats and demersal fish assemblages — A case study on Dogger Bank (North Sea)

The interdependence between groundfish assemblages and habitat properties was investigated in a dedicated field survey on the Dogger Bank in the North Sea. Abiotic habitat parameters considered included topography, hydrographic conditions, sediment composition, and the biotic habitat variable the prevailing benthic invertebrates. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether individual habitats in different regions of the bank hosted distinct benthic communities, and whether these were linked with the occurrence of specific fish assemblages.


Distinct epi- and infauna communities occurred at different locations on the Dogger Bank. Fish assemblages were clearly linked to both the biotic and abiotic habitat characteristics. Overall, fish and benthic communities revealed similar spatial distribution, represented in the respective clusters of characteristic and abundant species

The apparently most generalist species, grey gurnard (Eutrigla gurnardus) and dab (Limanda limanda) occurred at all stations and dominated in terms of biomass in most cases. The absolute numbers of grey gurnards were related to the abundance of suitable prey, invertebrate and fish species, which stomach analyses revealed as part of the diet in an independent study during the same research cruise. Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) and whiting (Merlangius merlangus) were only abundant at deep stations along the flanks of the bank. The occurrence of lemon sole (Microstomus kitt), American plaice (Hippoglossoides platessoides) and cod (Gadus morhua) was also positively correlated with depth, whereas especially lesser weever (Echiichthys vipera), sandeel species and solenette (Buglossidium luteum) occurred predominantly at the shallower sites. At the same time, individual fish species such as solenette and lesser weever were associated with high densities of selected epi- or infauna species.

Relevance for Policy:
  • Common Fisheries Policy
  • Convention on Biological Diversity
  • Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ships’ Biofouling to Minimize the Transfer of Invasive Aquatic Species
  • Habitats and Birds Directive
  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Data availability:

Data used: Field data from research cruise

Where it is held: Thünen Institute of Sea Fisheries / Senckenberg

Contact: Anne Sell,


Lead Author:

Anne Sell
( )
vTI-Institute of Sea Fisheries (vTI-SF)
Date of research: February 2013

Related articles:

Ecosystem impacts of non-indigenous species

Ecosystem service changes in an offshore MPA

Impact of invasive mussels on carbon flow 

Invasive ecosystem engineers and biodiversity

Non-indigenous and invasive alien species

The endangered limpet Patella ferruginea in an MPA

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.