Life in Liverpool docks

April 7th, 2018

Review of ‘What’s up Dock?’, a talk presented by Wendy Northway (MCS North West England Seasearch Coordinator) on 14th March 2018.

While Liverpool’s pre-eminence as a maritime centre in the North West is undisputed today, it was only in 1751, with the construction of the world’s first commercial wet dock that she cemented her call to that title. Previously the most important port in the area was Chester, a position the city had held since Roman times.

The first wet docks allowed ships to be unloaded in a day and a half, significantly undercutting the older practice of unloading cargo to smaller boats at sea for transfer to shore – a process that could take two weeks on good weather. This gave the port a massive commercial advantage, and soon the docks were over-subscribed, leading to the rapid construction of new, larger facilities, which were also required as the expansion of trade with the industrial revolution lead to ever larger vessels…

Liverpool's Albert Dock with the Liver Building in the background. Photo B Kaye
Above: Liverpool’s Albert Dock (with the Liver Building in the background) has been cleaned up and is now a major tourist destination, housing Tate Liverpool and a number of museums. Diving in the docks is now strictly controlled. Photo B. Kaye

As each new dock was built, unseen and rather unheralded, we also built a new marine habitat, and it is these that were the subject of the talk What’s up Dock? by Wendy Northway (MCS North West England Seasearch Coordinator) to the group on 14th March 2018. The docks are no longer used commercially (having closed in 1972), but are actively managed leisure spaces. Water from the river Mersey is not used, as it is too polluted, instead the docks are topped up from the Irish sea on high water springs, giving a salinity in the range 24‰ to 28‰. The exchange of water with the Irish Sea allows for migration of marine wildlife between the Irish Sea and the docks, which have as a consequence become colonised by a fairly select group of organisms.

Mussels and algae colonising a discarded bicycle. Photo (c) BrokenDiver
Above: An old bicycle thrown into the dock has been colonised by mussels and algae. Photo © BrokenDiver.

In 1988 the docks were colonised by up to 1000 mussel spat per square meter. The absence of common starfish in the docks have allowed very large population densities of mussels to be established, and larger individuals have grown too big to have any natural predators. The mussels have been calculated to filter the entire of the docks water every four days, and are probably vital to maintaining water quality. Other filter feeders include bryozoans, sponges and tunicates, while cockles have colonised the soft, muddy bottom of the docks.

Black goby amidst mussels, bryozoans and sea squirts in Liverpool docks. Photo (c) Catherine Gras
Black goby amidst mussels, colonial hydroids and sea squirts (Ciona and Ascidiella) in Liverpool docks. © Catherine Gras

The modern docks are home to a thriving marine community, including a number of fish and crustaceans. I was, however, particularly interested to hear that the seasearch divers had confirmed the presence of an introduction from the southern hemisphere, the worm Ficopomatus enigmaticus in the Collingwood Dock. This species may have been introduced on the bottoms of ships or as larvae in bilge water. Unfortunately we do not know if this is a relatively modern introduction on pleasure craft, or a relict from the Liverpool port’s trading days.

Ficopomatus enigmaticus, an Austrolian introduction. Photo Wendy Northway (c) PhoebeSparke
Above: The characteristic pagoda shape of the tubes created by the worm Ficopomatus enigmaticus, an Australian introduction. Photo Wendy Northway © PhoebeSparke

NOTES: Ficopomatus has become a nuicance in many areas it has colonised, producing dense aggregations that can interfere with dock gates and other marine/estuarine structures, though at high densities in docks may help clear the water of particulates, and improve bottom biodiversity (JNCC report linked below). In some places it forms large reef structures in shallow brackish water. Needing a temperature above 18°C to breed, it may not be as invasive in our local open waters, but has been recorded in the docks at Barrow, so we should be looking out for it in the Bay! More information on Ficopomatus enigmaticus at ‘The Exotics Guide‘ and JNCC.

Posted in Marine science update, MCS talks

Sea Level Rise – the hidden coastal process?

January 3rd, 2018
Above: Simulation of sea level rise on the Fylde coastline.

Our next talk, by Trevor Lund of Blackpool and Fylde College, will examine the evidence from around the Bay for sea level change in the past, look at the processes involved and consider how this will affect us all in the future. The process of sea level rise is one of the most important in shaping our coasts and shallow seas, but what exactly is it and can we see any evidence for it in the environment around us?

Wed. 10th January 2018 at 19:30 ‘Sea Level Rise – the hidden coastal process?’ by Trevor Lund (Blackpool and Fylde College)
Meeting in the cinema upstairs at the Gregson Community Centre, Lancaster, LA1 3PY. Admission £2 – all are welcome!

Sea Level Rise (PDF 294kB) Poster with more information.

Posted in MCS talks

Marine Jellies

December 3rd, 2017

Photograph of the jellyfish Aequorea vitrina, by Gordon Fletcher

Contributing to the festive season, we have an illustrated talk on ‘Marine Jellies’ by Gordon Fletcher on the 13th December. Gordon is a good story teller, and an excellent marine life photographer. I cannot think of a more able person to bring some of the strangest and most beautiful creatures in our seas to life for us!

Wed. 13th December 1t 19:30 ‘Marine Jellies’ by Gordon Fletcher (Lancashire MCS)
Meeting in the cinema upstairs at the Gregson Community Centre, Lancaster, LA1 3PY. Admission £2 – all are welcome!

Posted in Events, MCS talks, Science

Sealochs and Kelp Forests

February 2nd, 2017

Loch Creran by Gordon Fletcher.
Above: Loch Creran offers a wide variety of interesting, and often colourful, marine habitats to explore. Photo: Gordon Fletcher.

On Wednesday 8th February, we have two illustrated talks about some of the most interesting and accessible dive sites around the British Isles. Gordon Fletcher (MCS Lancashire) will look at Sealochs, characteristic features of the West Coast of Scotland, that offer sheltered diving on a diverse range of marine habitats. Barry Kaye (MCS Lancashire) will look at Kelp forests – interesting and diverse ecosystems, that are often avoided by divers, as looking a bit too much like Tolkien’s Mirkwood

The talks are aimed at a general audience, and an admission fee of £2 is charged to cover costs.

WHERE: The cinema at the Gregson Community Centre, Lancaster, LA1 3PY
WHEN: Wednesday 8th February at 19:30
ADMISSION: £2.00 Admission
Everybody Welcome!

Sea lochs and kelp forests poster (PDF 672kB).

Posted in MCS talks

The rough and the smooth

January 4th, 2017

Wednesday 11th January 2017 at 7:30PM Two talks looking at how life has adapted to conquer marine environments at opposite extremes of the energy spectrum. Still Waters (and muddy bottoms) by Barry Kaye and Exposed Shores by Gordon Fletcher.
Upstairs in the Cinema at the Gregson Centre, Lancaster, LA1 3PY.
£2.00 admission, all welcome!

Please note we have added a beach clean to our calendar for Sunday, 5th March. This will be at Half Moon Bay, meeting at the Cafe car park at 11AM. Please bring suitable clothing/footwear and tough gloves to protect your hands while picking.

Posted in Events, MCS talks

Man made habitats

December 2nd, 2016

Blackpool pier by Lewis Bambury.

On Wednesday 14th December we have our last public meeting of the year, with two talks from the local group looking at how some marine organisms have adapted to the ‘built environment’. Lewis Bambury will look at static objects, under the title Piers and Jetties, whilst Barry Kaye will take a look at Bilges and Bottoms

The meeting is at 19:30 in the Cinema, upstairs at the Gregson (click for website with address and venue details).
Admission is £2. Everyone is welcome.

You can download a copy of the poster below:

Man made habitats poster (116kB PDF)

Photo: Blackpool pier by Lewis Bambury.

Posted in MCS talks, Science

Climate change

November 2nd, 2016

A warming world

We Brits are obsessed about the weather, but at the end of the driest October in 65 years, has it actually started to change? At this month’s meeting (Wednesday 9th November, 19:30) Jo Kaye will take a look at how global warming is likely to effect life in and around the Bay. This is the first of our winter series of lectures at the Gregson Community Centre in Lancaster (LA1 3PY for those of you with satellite navigation!), so please come along and support us if you can!

Admission is £2, and everyone is welcome (subject to the room capacity, as dictated by fire regulations). Full details in our poster linked below:

Climate change (PDF 391kB)

Posted in MCS talks

British Divers Marine Life Rescue

September 9th, 2016

seals on rocks by Gordon Fletcher

19:30 Wednesday 14th September This month’s talk is by Eric Thresher, about the work of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR). The BDMLR is a volunteer organisation dedicated to the rescue and well-being of all marine animals in distress around the UK. (Please note, Eric is an active volunteer for BDMLR, and we may have to substitute a talk if he is called out on a rescue).
The talk will be in the lecture room at Capernwray Dive Centre. £2.00 Admission: Everybody Welcome.

Poster with further information (PDF 111kB) – please help publicise this event if you can

Posted in MCS talks

Greenland – vulnerable Icecap and Icebergs

August 3rd, 2016

Photo of Greenland icebergs by Gordon Fletcher

An illustrated talk by Gordon Fletcher.
On Wed 10th August at 19:30 in the lecture room, Capernwray Dive Centre
£2.00 Admission: Everybody Welcome.

Posted in MCS talks

AGM January 2016

January 21st, 2016

MCS logo (small) We were able to look back on quite a successful year at our AGM. Highlights for the group included a well attended Marine Life ID course at Leighton Moss, and ongoing series of meetings at the Gregson – which we hope to repeat, subject to our being able to come up with a suitable theme! The group made a profit of £130 from talks and events over the year, which has been donated to National MCS. A similar sum has been raised through pin-badge sales on our stand, and through Capernwray Dive Centre (to whom again our thanks!).

Events planned for 2016

The plan this year is to focus on beach cleans and out-door events over the summer period, and have a more formal series of lectures over the winter. We are hoping to increase our profile this year with an extended presence at the ‘Catch the Wind Kite Festival 2016‘ in Morecambe, and have a couple of preliminary meetings scheduled to work on this.

Further details of planned events (PDF 101kB)

For updates, please check our diary.

Posted in MCS talks