February 5, 2011

Oysters functionally extinct

Oyster from Marennes-OléronImage via Wikipedia

Survey of oyster habitats around the world has found that the succulent mollusks are disappearing fast and 85% of their reefs have been lost due to disease and over-harvesting.

Most of the remaining wild oysters in the world, or about 75 percent, can be found in five locations in North America, said the study published in BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences….
“Oyster reefs are at less than 10 percent of their prior abundance in most bays (70 percent) and ecoregions (63 percent),” said the study.
“They are functionally extinct — in that they lack any significant ecosystem role and remain at less than one percent of prior abundances in many bays (37 percent) and ecoregions (28 percent) — particularly in North America, Australia and Europe.”
By averaging the loss among all regions, the researchers came up with an estimate that 85 percent of oyster reef ecosystems have been lost, but said that figure was likely low because some areas lacked historical records for comparison….
The one bright spot in the oyster world was in the Gulf of Mexico, where native oyster catches are “the highest in the world despite significant declines in abundance and reefs,” according to the study. 
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