Using particle dispersal models to assist in the conservation and recovery of the overexploited native oyster (Ostrea edulis) in an enclosed sea lough

David Smyth, Louise Kregting, Bjoern Elsaesser, Richard Kennedy, David Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Oyster populations around the world have seen catastrophic decline which has been largely attributed to overexploitation, disease and pollution. While considerable effort and resources have been implemented into restoring these important environmental engineers, the success of oyster populations is often limited by poor understanding of site-specific dispersal patterns of propagules. Water-borne transport is a key factor controlling or regulating the dispersal of the larval stage of benthic marine invertebrates which have limited mobility. The distribution of the native oyster Ostrea edulis in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, together with their densities and population structure at subtidal and intertidal sites has been documented at irregular intervals between 1997 and 2013. This paper revisits this historical data and considers whether different prevailing environmental conditions can be used to explain the distribution, densities and population structure of O. edulis in Strangford Lough. The approach adopted involved comparing predictive 2D hydrodynamic models coupled with particle tracking to simulate the dispersal of oyster larvae with historical and recent field records of the distribution of both subtidal and intertidal, populations since 1995. Results from the models support the hypothesis that commercial stocks of O. edulis introduced into Strangford Lough in the 1990s resulted in the re-establishment of wild populations of oysters in the Northern Basin which in turn provided a potential source of propagules for subtidal populations. These results highlight that strategic site selection (while inadvertent in the case of the introduced population in 1995) for the re-introduction of important shellfish species can significantly accelerate their recovery and restoration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-59
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Volume108
Early online date17 Dec 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016

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