Published on: 04/04/10
Strategies for the retention of high genetic variability in European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) restoration programmes
The native European flat oyster Ostrea edulis is listed in the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (species and habitat protection) and in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Once extremely abundant in the nineteenth century, European stocks of O. edulis have declined during the twentieth century to rare, small, localised populations due to overexploitation, habitat degradation and, most recently, the parasitic disease bonamiosis. Selective breeding programmes for resistance to bonamiosis have been initiated in France and Ireland. High genetic diversity and bonamiosis-resistance would be important features of any sustainable restoration programmes for O. edulis. Oysters were sampled across Europe from four hatchery sources, four pond-cultured sources and four wild, but managed fisheries and were genotyped at five microsatellite loci. Hatchery-produced populations from small numbers of broodstock showed a significant loss of genetic diversity relative to wild populations and pedigree reconstruction revealed that they were each composed of a single large full-sib family and several small full-sib families. This extremely low effective population size highlights the variance in reproductive success among the potential breeders. Pond-cultured oysters were intermediate in genetic diversity and effective population size between hatchery and wild populations. Controlled hatchery production allows the development of bonamiosis-resistant strains, but at the expense of genetic diversity. Large scale pond culture on the other hand can provide a good level of genetic diversity. A mixture of these two approaches is required to ensure a healthy and sustainable restoration programme for O. edulis in Europe.