The Alfred Wegener Institute's project to "establish the sustainable production of seed oysters for a long-term reintroduction programme (PROCEED)" has now been named an official project of the UN Decade on Biodiversity. This honour is bestowed upon outstanding projects intended to preserve Germany's biodiversity.
Due to intensive fishing, the European oyster (Ostrea edulis), which used to be one of the most widespread species in the North Sea, is now considered extinct in Germany. As a key species for its habitat, it has a number of positive effects on other flora and fauna species, and provides important ecosystem services. Thanks to their tendency to settle on the shells of their fellow oysters, in the course of several generations, oysters gradually form biogenic reefs, which in turn provide food, shelter and habitat for several other organisms. Consequently, an intact oyster reef directly increases the biodiversity of its surrounding ecosystem. Since the early twentieth century these valuable sublittoral reef structures, which are comparable to coral reefs in terms of their relevance and biodiversity, can no longer be found in the German Bight.
"These oyster reefs are part of the ecology of the North Sea, and PROCEED is making a significant contribution to restoring them. We're delighted to see this important German project receive international recognition," says Prof Karen Wiltshire, Head of Coastal Ecology at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). In order for this important native oyster species to make a comeback, first young oysters have to be supplied. Research and technologies developed in the context of the PROCEED project have made it possible to set up an innovative breeding facility on Helgoland. "Here we're breeding the healthy young oysters that will be needed for the reintroduction. And Helgoland, as an island site with high water quality, is ideal. The breeding process involves several steps, from oyster eggs, to larvae, and finally to juvenile oysters. These young seed oysters will later be reintroduced as part of marine nature conservation measures jointly implemented with the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation," explains project manager Dr Bernadette Pogoda.
PROCEED, which is sponsored by the Federal Programme for Biological Diversity, not only supplies seed oysters for reintroduction efforts in Germany, which will initially be carried out in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Borkum Reef Ground through the AWI's RESTORE project; it also fosters collaboration between reintroduction projects across Europe through the Native Oyster Restoration Alliance network (NORA: https://noraeurope.eu/).
Another, especially important aspect of PROCEED: knowledge transfer to society at large. The goal is for the European oyster to be recognised as an ecologically relevant key species of the German North Sea. These activities made a lasting impression on the jury of experts for the UN Decade: "This exemplary project represents a concrete example of the commitment to preserving biodiversity in Germany."
On behalf of the entire PROCEED team, project manager Dr Bernadette Pogoda received an official certificate, a plaque and a small wooden 'diversity tree' as a symbol of biodiversity. Effective immediately, the project is showcased on the website of the UN Decade in Germany (in German language): https://www.undekade-biologischevielfalt.de/projekte/aktuelle-projekte-beitraege/detail/projekt-details/show/wettbewerb/3090/
PROCEED) is financially supported by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation through the Federal Programme for Biological Diversity, using funding from Germany's Federal Ministry for the Environment.
The United Nations declared 2011 to 2020 the UN Decade on Biodiversity, in an effort to combat the global loss of biodiversity. In this context, a broad social awareness of biodiversity's tremendous value is an essential prerequisite. By awarding outstanding projects, the UN Decade in Germany's goal is to highlight the unique value and benefits of biodiversity. At the same time, these lighthouse projects offer practical examples of how measures to preserve biological diversity, its sustainable use and promotion can be implemented.
Award-winning projects are selected by an independent jury of experts in which various societal groups are represented, and which convenes twice a year. For further information on the UN Decade on Biodiversity, please visit: https://www.undekade-biologischevielfalt.de/home-english/