NORA News June 2023

Dear NORA community,

We can present a newsletter fully packed with information about NORA group activities, knowledge exchange on various levels, about new projects and initiatives. We invite you to read thoroughly through this edition. Fantastic to see how Italy moves forward to restore biodiversity and enhances European oyster restoration in the Mediterranean.

Abstract submission for NORA 5 showcases how active the NORA community is – 78 abstracts have been submitted. The selection process starts now. Remind: registration for NORA 5 is already open – see below – and we are looking forward to meeting so many of you in November in the Netherlands.

Best regards and happy to hear from you,

The NORA Secretariat
secretariat@noraeurope.eu


NORA 5 Conference in Middelburg / The Netherlands

High number of abstracts received – selection process in progress

We are very excited about the exceptional high number of abstracts for NORA 5 – 78 abstracts for talks and posters have been submitted. A first overview revealed that there are many interesting and promising abstracts for each topic, therefore the selection process will be very difficult…. Abstracts are now under review and assessment by the NORA 5 Selection Committee. It is foreseen to inform authors about acceptance of their submissions by mid-September. It might be possible that members of the selection committee or the secretariat get in touch with you within the next weeks if there are questions or suggestions to adapt your abstract. So please check your emails regularly or give a short information to the secretariat if you will be off for long-time vacation.

Exchange on outreach materials at NORA 5

The NORA Outreach Group so far only met online - with NORA5 being an in-person conference this can finally change! For this a „outreach booth" with the possibility to show already existing outreach materials (e.g. flyers, posters, school materials, games…) out of the projects and meet there to chat about ongoing work will be organized.

If you developed such materials (any language, any material!) and want to share it with the NORA community, please send a short email to Corina Corina.Peter@awi.de and/or the NORA secretariat secretariat@noraeurope.eu in order to secure enough space on site for everyone and everything.

Reminder: NORA 5 registration is open

> Register here for NORA 5 <

As already announced, there will be an excursion to the shellfish centers nearby in the afternoon of the 8th November. Places are limited to 75 participants (“first come, first served”).

NORA has become a foundation, and financial resources are very limited so far. We are grateful to get some sponsoring for the conference, but nevertheless, there will be a modest conference fee this year (125€ for professionals, 50€ for students), to be paid upon invoice after registration.


NORA Working groups

NORA Genetics Working Group
Short report from the 5th meeting

The Genetics WG met on 21st of June. As in the fourth meeting (end of March, see April newsletter), about 22 participants joined the June meeting, a constantly high number. After a short introduction of new members, Pierre Boudry and Fiz da Costa addressed briefly the ongoing work on the questionnaire about what/how genetics can contribute to oyster restoration. The questions were grouped in four topics:

  1. Phylogeography, population genetics and identification of evolutionary forces
  2. Optimization of reproduction and monitoring of genetic diversity in hatchery- or pond-produced populations for restoration
  3. Selective breeding methods to improve disease resistance or other traits
  4. Connectivity between populations and positive/negative interactions between wild, restored and farmed populations.

Updates on genotyping and sample databases were given.

In the group presentations, researchers of DTU Aqua / Denmark presented their work. First, Jakob Hemmer-Hansen / DTU Aqua gave insights in his work on conservation genetics of the European flat oyster & managing biodiversity in a heavily impacted system. The overall aims are: to understand natural genetic diversity and demographic history of O. edulis in Scandinavia, develop practical tools and guidelines for management, conservation and restoration programmes.

Then, Camille Saurel / DTU Aqua talked about her work on genetic tools for the DTU aqua flat oyster hatchery. Aims are: disesase-free broodstock, improve production, compare genetic diversity between wild & hatchery populations, manage broodstock, traceability for restoration.

The next WG meeting is foreseen for September. If there is anyone interested to join the Genetics Working Group, get in touch with Pierre Boudry Pierre.Boudry@ifremer.fr


Knowledge transfer group for offshore native oyster reef restoration

On May 23, a knowledge transfer meeting was held to address challenges and to identify potential synergies related to native oyster reef restoration in North Sea offshore conditions.

There is a common understanding that this concerns conditions which are (much) less sheltered and more dissipative than (most) nearshore locations, such as bays, inlets and estuaries. More and more reef restoration attempts are being undertaken in such conditions, in particular in the North Sea, where historical data show extensive sublittoral native oyster reef habitats.

The small group of experts was formed by invited representatives of countries involved in oyster restoration in offshore or exposed environments, such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Scotland. The meeting was seen as a great success of NORA, uniting practitioners in a joint mission.

Such informal meetings will be repeated in the near future to ensure an efficient exchange and to foster practical collaborations where possible.

The group is coordinated by Bernadette Pogoda and Hein Sas. For more information, please take up contact with either Bernadette bernadette.pogoda@awi.de or
Hein
hein.sas@noraeurope.eu


Project News

If there are any new projects or if you have interesting news, please report to the Secretariat for the next newsletter.
Exciting new French project - MicroCO2sm

MicroCO2sm is a real-time experiment to assess the combined effects of plastic pollution, global warming and ocean acidification on the native flat oyster and raise citizen awareness. Under the leadership of UMR LEMAR / Ifremer & CNRS, twelve small oyster reefs, naturally parasited, were installed in re-circulated mesocosms (250 L) and exposed to an increase in seawater temperature (+2°C), a decrease in pH (-0.32 pH unit) and the addition of microplastics. For one year, high-throughput tools (e.g. -omics, live-cell imaging, ecophysiology) are used to assess the effects of the environmental stressors at individual and population levels. The aim is to get more knowledge how European oysters will be able to cope with the global threats to our oceans. The experiment is taking place in Oceanolab, a new space designed by the Océanopolis Aquarium and science centre and the University of Western Brittany. Visits and communication tools inform visitors about the experiment in progress, and discussions take place with the scientists in residence to inform them about the challenges facing the oceans and raise awareness on the flat oyster decline, climate change and plastic pollution.

For more information, visit the NORA Website: The MicroCO2sm Project

Ukraine:
Restoration of European oysters in Tylihul Geopark, the Black Sea

As we have already informed you in our March Newsletter, there is a native oyster restoration project in the Tylihul Estuary, connected to the Black Sea, in the south of Ukraine. A team of oyster enthusiasts from NGO Tylihul Life, oysters farm Skifian Oysters Ltd. and Tylihul Geopark have collaborated in a first pilot project from 2020 to 2022, using spat from The Netherlands and France and documenting high survival rate, growth, and ecologically suitable conditions for the return of European oysters. Based on these promising results and the success of the pilot project, it was decided in March 2023 to establish a cooperation with Reef Ball Foundation to introduce Reef Balls for European oysters in the Black Sea.

More Information on the NORA website: Ukrainian project in Tylihul Geopark


Further Activities

Italy awakens to the needs and opportunities
to restore its biodiversity capital, including Native Oyster Habitats

On the 23rd of May 2023 in Rome, the National Biodiversity Future Centre (NBFC) was officially launched. This 3-year initiative represents a significant effort by the Italian scientific community, involving over 2000 scientist and 49 research institutions up and down the Country entirely focused on the preservation and restoration of natural ecosystems and their biodiversity. Embedded within this massive endeavour, oyster reefs restoration plays a small but significant part within the project activity named “Solutions to reverse marine biodiversity loss and manage marine resources sustainably” that will sustain and support European-wide efforts to restore native oyster reefs and their significant role in the provisioning of vital ecosystem services. Together with the NBFC, two significant initiatives are also shaping up to further bolster native oyster restoration activities in Italy. The first will take place in the Gulf of La Spezia in the beautiful Liguria Region, where the presence of European Flat Oyster remnants populations has been recorded since the late 1800 when restoration activities had been attempted for the first time. Unfortunately, anthropic impacts and a progressive change of environmental conditions within the Gulf have negatively affected these early efforts and, today, only few individuals survive. The project RAISE will be carried out by the ENEA (National agency for new technologies and sustainable economic development), who has pledged to adhere to the guidance produced by the Native Oyster Network to pursue the ambitious goal of rewilding the Port of La Spezia through circular and regenerative nature-based solutions. The second initiative is the project MER (Marine Ecosystem Restoration), funded under the Next Generation EU programme. ISPRA, the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, will take on the challenge to restore wild native oyster reefs in five Regions along the Italian Adriatic coast, restore key Mediterranean seagrass meadows (e.g. Posidonia oceanica), and map selected Italian coastal and deep-sea habitats of conservation value.

Italy is now putting forward unprecedented efforts to preserve the largest biodiversity capital in Europe and along with it the historical native oyster beds.

We will keep you updated on these activities and the Italian restoration projects.


Looking for collaborators for future project –
Bonamia/Marteilia infection status of restored oysters

Lara Schmittmann, postdoc at GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany, and member of a project on the dispersal of marine diseases with ocean currents, is working on the spread of Bonamia between European oyster populations in the wild, in aquaculture and at restoration sites. A specific aim is to provide an infection risk assessment for restoration sites based on connectivity by ocean currents. For a future follow-up on the oyster disease dispersal, Lara would be interested to compare the predictions of the models with the actual infection status of the restored populations. For more information, take a look here or get in touch with Lara lschmittmann@geomar.de. She is highly interested to collaborate with the NORA community, e.g. regarding infection status monitoring data, or even samples that need to be monitored. Since the project is not funded yet, for now she would just need a note that you would be interested.


NORA members participated on a historical ecology workshop organized by ICES WGHIST and MAF WORLD

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Working Group on the History of Fish and Fisheries (WGHIST) and the COST Action (CA20102) Marine Animal Forest of the World (MAF WORLD) organized a historical ecology workshop on the 12-15 June at University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus. This ICES WGHIST annual meeting was a hybrid event co-chaired by Bryony Caswell and Camilla Sguotti, with Ruth Thurstan for Marine Animal Forests of the World. The workshop was organized in four thematic sessions which included speaker presentations, discussions and writing sessions. It included topics such as the use of non-traditional sources for uncovering social-ecological changes, guidelines and best practices for application of historical data and historical perspectives for marine ecosystem-based management.

NORA community was represented during this workshop. Ruth Thurstan and Philine zu Ermgassen presented the work that they are leading about historical ecology of flat oyster. Fiz da Costa presented the aquaculture historical initiative that is being shaped within NORA Production Working Group.


Publications

Another article in ALR’s NORA 4 topical issue published:

MERK V., HAUSEN T., AMEIS T., COLSOUL B., BOERSMA M., POGODA B. (2023): Potential of calcein staining as growth monitoring marker in Ostrea edulis. Aquat. Living Resources 2023, 36: 17. Published online: 20 June 2023. DOI: doi.org/10.1051/alr/2023010

And to have all publications in ALR´s NORA 4 topical issue at first glance:
www.alr-journal.org/component/toc/?task=topic&id=1763