Restoration of the European native Oyster Ostrea edulis; Learning from global successes to restore an imperilled ecosystem

Oysters and the reefs they create are hugely important ecosystems with a global distribution. As filter feeders’ oysters pump large volumes of seawater daily, up to 200 L/day, acting as natural filtration systems. In sufficient numbers, oysters can improve water quality, prevent large scale algal blooms and the associated problems of mass fish mortality and dead zones due to depleted O2. Left undisturbed, become ‘ecosystem engineers’ (like corals) and will eventually create a unique three-dimensional reef structure. These oyster reefs provide habitat and refuge for an incredible diversity of organisms and serve as a food source, nursery ground for many fish species, increasing fish biodiversity and abundance.

In Europe native oyster populations have declined by 95% since the 1950s. This has resulted in a growing movement to recover native oyster populations and habitats in the UK and Europe. Efforts to restore oysters, oyster reefs and their services have been underway for some time in the US with a great degree of success. This speed talk will communicate the importance of the ecological function of oyster habitats, the lessons learned from oyster restoration in the US and Australia and introduce the model of the Native Oyster Network- UK & Ireland. By Celine Gamble from the Native Oyster Network.