From artificial structures to self-sustaining oyster reefs

B. Walles*, K. Troost, D. van den Ende, S. Nieuwhof, A.C. Smaal, T. Ysebaert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Coastal ecosystems are increasingly recognized as essential elements within coastal defence schemes and coastal adaptation. The capacity of coastal ecosystems, like marshes and oyster reefs, to maintain their own habitat and grow with sea-level rise via biophysical feedbacks is seen as an important advantage of such systems compared to man-made hard engineering structures.Providing a suitable substrate for oysters to settle on offers a kick-start for establishment at places where they were lost or are desirable for coastal protection. Accumulation of shell material, through recruitment and growth, is essential to the maintenance of oyster reefs as it provides substrate for new generations (positive feedback loop), forming a self-sustainable structure. Insight in establishment, survival and growth thresholds and knowledge about the population dynamics are necessary to successfully implement oyster reefs in coastal defence schemes.The aim of this paper is to investigate whether artificial Pacific oyster reefs develop into self-sustaining oyster reefs that contribute to coastal protection. Reef development was investigated by studying recruitment, survival and growth rates of oysters on artificial oyster reefs in comparison with nearby natural Pacific oyster reefs. The artificial reef structure successfully offered substrate for settlement of oysters and therefore stimulated reef formation. Reef development, however, was hampered by local sedimentation and increasing tidal emersion. Tidal emersion is an important factor that can be used to predict where artificial oyster reefs have the potential to develop into self-sustaining reefs that could contribute to coastal protection, but it is also a limiting factor in using oyster reefs for coastal protection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • Artificial reefs
  • Crassostrea gigas
  • Growth
  • Oyster reefs
  • Recruitment
  • Survival
  • Tidal emersion


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