Complex habitat generated by marine bryozoans: a review of its distribution, structure, diversity, threats and conservation


A.C.L. Wood, Department of Marine Science, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. E-mail:


  1. Habitat-forming bryozoans are here defined as extant, heavily-calcified species which regularly attain sizes over 50 mm in three-dimensions and which contribute significantly to benthic habitat structure as living colonies.
  2. Records of habitat-forming bryozoans were collated and mapped, together with information about the location, environment, habitat-forming species, the nature and size of the habitat formed, any associated fauna, and relevant threats and/or conservation measures.
  3. Records collated here indicated that habitat-forming bryozoans occurred from ~59°N to 77°S, but that they did not occur frequently in the tropics, being found most commonly in temperate continental shelf environments, on stable substrata in places where water movement was relatively fast and consistent.
  4. Habitat-forming bryozoans are particularly abundant and diverse in New Zealand, where 27 species, a quarter of which are cyclostomes, provide habitat over hundreds of square kilometres of sea floor. Other areas where they are particularly rich and/or abundant include Antarctica (Weddell, Lazarev and Ross Seas), the North Pacific around Japan, the northern Mediterranean and Adriatic, and along the southern edge of the North Sea, through the English Channel and around the United Kingdom.
  5. Large bryozoans provide habitat for diverse associated assemblages, particularly for other bryozoans, molluscs, annelids, arthropods, cnidarians, sponges, echinoderms and macroalgae.
  6. Protected areas which include habitat-forming bryozoans occur throughout the distribution of this frequently unrecognized habitat type, but despite this they are prone to damage by anthropogenic impacts including pollution and bottom fishing. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.