▪ Abstract 

Oysters have been introduced worldwide to 73 countries, but the ecological consequences of the introductions are not fully understood. Economically, introduced oysters compose a majority of oyster harvests in many areas. Oysters are ecosystem engineers that influence many ecological processes, such as maintenance of biodiversity, population and food web dynamics, and nutrient cycling. Consequently, both their loss, through interaction of overharvest, habitat degradation, disease, poor water quality, and detrimental species interactions, and their gain, through introductions, can cause complex changes in coastal ecosystems. Introductions can greatly enhance oyster population abundance and production, as well as populations of associated native species. However, introduced oysters are also vectors for non-native species, including disease-causing organisms. Thus, substantial population, community, and habitat changes have accompanied new oysters. In contrast, ecosystem-level consequences of oyster introductions, such as impacts on flow patterns, sediment and nutrient dynamics, and native bioengineering species, are not well understood. Ecological risk assessments for future introductions must emphasize probabilities of establishment, spread, and impacts on vulnerable species, communities, and ecosystem properties. Many characteristics of oysters lead to predictions that they would be successful, high-impact members of recipient ecosystems. This conclusion leaves open the discussion of whether such impacts are desirable in terms of restoration of coastal ecosystems, especially where restoration of native oysters is possible.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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