Demography of the ecosystem engineer Crassostrea gigas, related to vertical freef accretion and reef persistence

B. Walles*, R.M. Mann, T. Ysebaert, K. Troost, P.M.J. Herman, A.C. Smaal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Marine species characterized as structure building, autogenic ecosystem engineers are recognized worldwide as potential tools for coastal adaptation efforts in the face of sea level rise. Successful employment of ecosystem engineers in coastal protection largely depends on long-term persistence of their structure, which is in turn dependent on the population dynamics of the individual species. Oysters, such as-the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas), are recognized as ecosystem engineers with potential for use in coastal protection. Persistence of oyster reefs is strongly determined by recruitment and shell production (growth), processes facilitated by gregarious settlement on extant shell substrate. Although the Pacific oyster has been introduced world-wide, and has formed dense reefs in the receiving coastal waters, the population biology of live oysters and the quantitative mechanisms maintaining these reefs has rarely been studied, hence the aim of the present work. This study had two objectives: (1) to describe the demographics of extant C. gigas reefs, and (2) to estimate vertical reef accretion rates and carbonate production in these oyster reefs. Three long-living oyster reefs (>30 years old), which have not been exploited since their first occurrence, were examined in the Oosterschelde estuary in the Netherlands. A positive reef accretion rate (7.0-16.9 mm year(-1) shell material) was observed, consistent with self-maintenance and persistent structure. We provide a framework to predict reef accretion and population persistence under varying recruitment, growth and mortality scenarios. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-233
JournalEstuarine Coastal and Shelf Science
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • sea-level rise
  • introduced pacific oysters
  • wadden sea
  • chesapeake bay
  • population-dynamics
  • shell dissolution
  • eastern oyster
  • james river
  • virginica
  • habitats


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