Impact on bird fauna of a non-native oyster expanding into blue mussel beds in the Dutch Wadden Sea

Andreas M. Waser*, Symen Deuzeman, Arno K.W. Kangeri, Erik van Winden, Jelle Postma, Peter de Boer, Jaap van der Meer, Bruno J. Ens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Intertidal mussel beds are important for intertidal ecosystems, because they feature a high taxonomic diversity and abundance of benthic organisms and are important foraging grounds for many avian species. After the introduction of the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) into the European Wadden Sea, many mussel beds developed into oyster dominated bivalve beds. Despite the fact that oysters have been colonizing many European intertidal areas for about two decades, their impact on the ecosystem is still poorly understood. Here, we investigated the impact of oysters on the condition of mussels and on the spatial distribution of birds on 18 bivalve beds with different grades of oyster occurrence throughout the Dutch Wadden Sea. Moreover, in comparing bird densities on bivalve beds with densities expected on the total intertidal area, we could detect which species exhibit a preference for the structured habitat. Overall, 50 different bird species were observed on the beds, of which about half regularly frequent intertidal flats. Most of these species showed a preference for bivalve beds. The condition of mussels decreased with the oyster dominance, whereas the majority of bird species was not affected by the oyster occurrence. However, three of the four species that were negatively affected depend on intertidal mussels as food source. Even though the Pacific oyster is a nonnative species, attempts to fight it may do more harm to avian biodiversity than good.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-49
JournalBiological Conservation
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Crassotrea gigas
  • Habitat complexity
  • Mytilus edulis
  • Oyster reef
  • Shorebirds
  • Species distribution


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