Global change and climate-driven invasion of the Pacific oyster along European coasts: a bioenergetics modelling approach

Global change and climate-driven invasion of the Pacific oyster along European coasts: a bioenergetics modelling approachby Mélanie Gouaux and Lise Guégniard

Published by Charlotte Recapet the January 8, 2019 on 4:20 PM

Environmental changes such as seawater warming, and coastal eutrophication have an impact on breeding, larval survival and recruitment of marine benthic species. Global change induces changes in the natural distributions of native species and facilitates the spread of non-native species. Nowadays, the spread of non-native species in marine ecosystems around the world is one of the most serious environmental concerns. In receiving ecosystems, consequences of biological invasions are readily identifiable when invasive species are ecosystem engineers such as polychaetes or bivalves.

Scientists of the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea and of the university of Nantes investigated how global change relates to the invasion of European coasts by a non-native marine invertebrate, the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas.

This species was introduced on the European coasts of the Atlantic at the end of the 19th century for shellfish culture purposes and is the main oyster species farmed in Europe today. In recent decades, the Pacific oyster has acquired invasive species status with the expansion of its biogeographic distribution along the northwestern European coast beyond its initial zone of introduction into sites breeding. Bourgneuf Bay on the French Atlantic coast was considered as the northern boundary of C. gigas expansion at the time of its introduction to Europe in the 1970s. From this latitudinal reference, variations in the spatial distribution of the C. gigas  reproductive niche were analysed along the northwestern European coast from Gibraltar to Norway.


A bed of Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas in the Netherlands - Bas Kers - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Mechanistic models are valuable tools for this purpose, and modelling approaches are useful for gaining a quantitative understanding of the effects of environmental changes on marine communities, and predicting their responses to projected climatic trends.

The use of the IBM and DEB models has shown results at different scales, at the individual scale, at the Bourgneuf Bay scale and at the European scale.

At the individual level, the results showed interannual variability of the dry flesh mass (DFM). A loss of DFM is explained by a spawning event. There has been a significant increase in DFM and the number of oocytes in recent years. To explain these results, they studied the relationship between the environmental conditions in late spring and the characteristics of the oyster. Then they achieved positive relationships between DFM and phytoplankton. Likewise, between the number of accumulated oocytes and phytoplankton. Here, phytoplankton seems to be the cause of this increase of DFM and the number of oocytes in recent years for this species of oyster. Here, phytoplankton seems to be the cause of this increase of DFM and the number of oocytes in recent years for this species of oyster. Moreover, according to the individual model, the higher the temperature of the sea surface, the earlier the clutches (June-July). While a cooler sea surface temperature will result in late laying (August-September).

Then, they applied the same models to the bay of Bourgneuf. The results showed an increase in the temperature of the sea surface in the bay, but also the effects of the temperature of the water on the laying. Indeed, as at the individual scale, the high-water temperatures lead to prose spits and vice versa.

Results at the European level showed a change in the geographic limit of spawning habitat, regardless of phytoplankton concentration. In 1986, the limit was located at the level of the Loire estuary with a south-north spawning gradient, earlier in the south of Europe. In 2003, this limit moved completely to the north of Europe. This change can be explained by the global warming of the waters.

Other studies have highlighted other results. Indeed, using a Degree / day model, Ifermer has demonstrated the importance of the nutrient pool for egg laying. Indeed, in recent years, laying is actually late because of the low nutritional value of phytoplankton. The warming of the waters would therefore cause the loss of the oyster's nutrient pool and thus a delay in laying eggs.

Cited study: Yoann, T., et al. (2016). Global change and climate-driven invasion of the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) along European coasts: a bioenergetics modelling approach. Journal of Biogeography 43(3), 568-579.

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