• Ivana

University of Gent Research Reveals Optimal Locations for Offshore Oyster Habitat Restoration under UNITED's Project

A new scientific research paper published by the University of Gent, under the UNITED Project, has identified optimal locations for offshore European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) habitat restoration. The study, titled "Northern Europe's suitability for offshore European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) habitat restoration: A mechanistic niche modelling approach," provides important insights into the habitat requirements of flat oysters, which are critical in selecting the right restoration sites.

After centuries of overexploitation, the protection of flat oyster habitats and large-scale oyster restoration projects have been initiated in the North Sea, the English Channel, the Irish Sea, and the north-eastern Atlantic. However, the study's authors note that understanding the habitat requirements of flat oysters is key to the restoration process.

The researchers used a dynamic energy budget model forced with temperature, chlorophyll a, and salinity in combination with sediment composition to determine a theoretical niche for all life stages of the flat oyster. They then evaluated the suitability of Northern Europe's marine environment for flat oysters by applying the proposed niche model on a spatial scale and evaluating spatio-temporal variability in life history traits and metabolic characteristics.

The study's results reveal that habitat suitability is limited by low maximum summer temperatures and low food availability at higher latitudes and in areas under strong influence from the Atlantic Ocean. Restoration efforts in Ireland and Scotland should be confined to protected and shallow coastal environments, while suitability in the southern North Sea is patchy and mainly depends on seabed substrate. The nearshore areas of the English Channel are highly suitable for restoration.

The georeferenced dataset shared in the study will be useful for restoration practitioners looking to select the most appropriate sites for offshore oyster habitat restoration.

This groundbreaking research from the University of Gent under the UNITED's project will play a critical role in protecting and restoring flat oyster habitats in Northern Europe and enhancing the biodiversity of coastal ecosystems.

Read the article here: https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.3947