Settlement success of European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) on different types of hard substrate to support reef development in offshore wind farms

Remment ter Hofstede*, Sterre Witte, Pauline Kamermans, Mark van Koningsveld, Linda Tonk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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The native European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) is an ecosystem engineer providing important ecosystem services, but became nearly extinct from the North Sea due to diseases and overfishing. There's a growing interest to restore these oyster reefs for their valuable contribution in re-establishing a rich ecosystem in the North Sea. In order to reintroduce the flat oyster population, the availability of hard substrate is crucial for initial settlement and reef development. Such substrate is offered by the infrastructure in offshore wind farms, by means of quarried rock placed at the base of the wind turbine foundations and on top of cable crossings to prevent scouring of the seabed. Further anthropogenic disturbances of the seabed are largely restricted, making wind farm areas promising sites for oyster reef restoration. For successful oyster reef initiation, offering a suitable type of substrate for larvae settlement is important. Here, we assess the settlement preference of flat oysters on 9 different types of substrate, by comparing total settlement, spat densities and spat survival. Oyster larvae settlement preference based on the total number of spat per surface area of the substrate was the highest for granite, a rock type conventionally used as scour protection in offshore wind farms. The lowest settlement preference was observed for steel and the biodegradable polymer BESE. The experiments were performed in a spatting pond and in a natural bay to be able to compare spat collection under controlled and natural conditions. Settlement rates in the spatting pond were much higher than in the natural environment, though survival rates were lower. Our results provide insight in the settlement preference of the European flat oyster for different types of substrate under controlled and natural conditions. Knowing these favorable substrates and conditions for oyster larvae settlement allows for the selection of pro-active measures that contribute to flat oyster reef restoration in the North Sea.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107189
Number of pages8
JournalEcological Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Flat oyster
  • Hard substrates
  • Infrastructure
  • Offshore wind
  • Reef restoration
  • Settlement


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