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Restoring flat oyster populations could contribute to the recovery of the Mar Menor, says IEO

Oysters in the Mar Menor

The first meeting of the RemediOS research project, led by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO-CSIC) and whose objective is to promote the restoration of flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) populations in the Mar Menor while, thanks to the filtration capacity of these bivalves, very abundant in the 1970s, their contribution to the recovery of the lagoon ecosystem will be studied.

Scientific staff from the IEO-CSIC oceanographic centres of Murcia, Vigo and the Balearic Islands, the Association of Naturalists of the Southeast (ANSE), the Institute of Marine Sciences of Barcelona (ICM-CSIC), the University of the Basque Country, the University of Dalhousie (Canada) and the Estrella Levante Foundation have held a virtual meeting to launch the project, The meeting was held virtually to launch the RemediOS project, with the collaboration of the Biodiversity Foundation, the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, through the Pleamar Programme, co-financed by the FEMP.

According to IEO sources in a statement, RemediOS is part of the line of work developed by the IEO to promote the use of bivalves in bioremediation actions in degraded ecosystems by applying aquaculture techniques. Specifically, this new project focuses on the flat oyster, Ostrea edulis, as the species to be assessed, and the salt lagoon of the Mar Menor as a case study.

In the Mar Menor, an important population of flat oyster developed at the end of the 1970s, which is currently very reduced and, with it, the ecosystem services they provide. This initiative is part of the European network NORA ( Native Oyster Restoration Alliance ) created at the end of 2017 to support and promote the conservation and ecological restoration of the flat oyster across Europe.

“The Mar Menor has gone from being an oligotrophic ecosystem of clear waters to a strongly eutrophicated and unstable ecosystem as a consequence of human activities,” explains Marina Albentosa, researcher at the IEO’s Murcia Oceanographic Centre and head of RemediOS.

This project is based on what are known as nature-based solutions, which are actions that use ecosystems and the services they provide to recover a space. In this case, the aim is to recover an eutrophicated ecosystem by increasing the populations of bivalves, which consume the microalgae proliferations that cause eutrophication.

“The recovery of the ecosystem’s functionality requires a comprehensive plan of action: on the one hand, we must work to eliminate dumping on land and, on the other, to recover the ecosystem services of the species in the sea,” said the scientist.

The first step of the RemediOS project will be to assess the feasibility of producing flat oyster seed from broodstock in the lagoon at the IEO’s facilities. Once the seeds are produced, they will be reintroduced into the Mar Menor and their bioremediation capacity will be assessed.

The RemediOS project also includes several activities with the Fishermen’s Guild of San Pedro del Pinatar in which the past and future of the fishery and aquaculture of the flat oyster in the Mar Menor will be assessed together with the sector, as well as other dissemination sessions with the general public and environmental organisations.

The Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) is a National Centre of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), under the Ministry of Science and Innovation, dedicated to research in marine sciences, especially related to the scientific knowledge of the oceans, the sustainability of fishery resources and the marine environment.

The IEO represents Spain in most international scientific and technological forums related to the sea and its resources. It has nine coastal oceanographic centres, five marine culture experimentation plants, twelve tide gauge stations, a satellite image receiving station and a fleet of four oceanographic vessels, including the ‘Ramón Margalef’ and the ‘Ángeles Alvariño’.

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