Reefs formed by Ostrea edulis, the European native oyster, are among many biogenic habitats that have declined globally. European oyster habitats are now rare, and undisturbed examples have not been described. As more is understood of the ecosystem services provided by the reefs, oyster restoration efforts are on the rise, becoming a more prominent component of Europe’s portfolio of marine conservation practices. It is therefore important to establish the relationship between the development of oyster reefs and their associated biotic community if the biodiversity benefits are to be accurately predicted and the progress of restoration projects assessed. The Loch Ryan oyster fishery in Southwest Scotland is the last of its type and uses a rotational harvest system where different areas are fished each year and then left for six years before they are fished again. This provided an opportunity to study the effect of oyster reef development and biodiversity gain at different stages of habitat recovery. In this study three treatments were surveyed for faunal biodiversity, oyster shell density and oyster shell percentage cover. Treatments were plots that had been harvested one year before, two years before, and six years before the study. The treatments were surveyed with SCUBA using a combination of video transects and photo quadrats. Oyster shell density, oyster shell percent cover and macrofaunal biodiversity differed significantly between treatments, with the highest values observed in the six-year treatment. Shell density was 8.5 times higher in the six-year treatment compared to the one-year treatment, whilst Shannon-Wiener’s diversity was 60.5% higher, and Margalef’s richness 68.8% higher. Shell density and percent cover had a significant positive relationship with macrofaunal biodiversity. This is probably due to the provision of increased structural complexity in the matrix of live and dead oyster shells. Projecting forward the trend of biodiversity increase in relation to time since disturbance indicates that full recovery would take approximately ten years in which time diversity (Shannon-Wiener) would probably have doubled. The findings from the present study indicate the probable biodiversity benefits of oyster habitat restoration and a cost-effective metric (shell density) to judge progress in restoration projects.
- Research Article
- Biology and life sciences
- Ecology and environmental sciences
- Earth sciences
ASJC Scopus subject areas