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VELYGER Database: The Oyster Larvae Monitoring French Project
Worldwide, shellfish aquaculture and fisheries in coastal ecosystems represent crucial activities for human feeding. But these biological productions are under the pressure of climate variability and global change. Anticipating the biological processes affected by climate hazards remains a vital objective for species conservation strategies and human activities that rely on. Within marine species, filter feeders like oysters are real key species in coastal ecosystems due to their economic and societal value (fishing and aquaculture) but also due to their ecological importance. Indeed oysters populations in good health play the role of ecosystem engineers that can give many ecosystem services at several scales: building reef habitats that contribute to biodiversity, benthic-pelagic coupling and phytoplankton bloom control through water filtration, living shorelines against coastal erosion… The Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas (Thunberg, 1793), which is currently widespread worldwide, was introduced into the Atlantic European coasts at the end of the 19th century for shellfish culture purposes and becomes the main marine species farmed in France (around 100 000 tons) despite severe mortalities crisis. But in the same time and because of warming, natural oysters beds has spread significantly along the French coast and are supposed to have reach approximately 500 000 tons. In that context, Pacific oyster populations (natural and cultivated) in France are the subjects of many scientific projects. Among them, a specific long-term biological monitoring focuses on the reproduction of these populations at a national scale: the VELYGER national program. With more than 8 years of weekly data at many stations in France, this field-monitoring program offers a valuable dataset for studying processes underpinning reproduction cycle of this key-species in relation to environmental parameters, water quality and climate change.
Database content: Larval concentration (number of individuals per 1.5 m3) monitored, since 2008, at several stations in six bays of the French coast (from south to north): Thau Lagoon and bays of Arcachon, Marennes Oléron, Bourgneuf, Vilaine and Brest (see map below).
Methods used to monitor larval concentration: An important volume of seawater (1.5 m3) is pumped twice a week throughout the spawning season (june-september), at one meter below the surface at high tide (+/- 2h) in several sites within each VELYGER ecosystem. Water is filtered trough plankton net fitted with 40 µm mesh. After a proper rinsing of the net, the retained material is transferred into a polyethylene bottle (1 liter) and fixed with alcohol. At laboratory, sample is then gently filtered and rinse again and transferred into eprouvette. Two sub-samples of 1 mL are then taken using a pipette and examined on a graticule slide for microscope. The microscopic examination is made with a conventional binocular optical microscope with micrometer stage at a magnification of 10 X (or above). During the counting, a special care is necessary as larvae of other bivalves are also collected and confusion is possible. Larvae of C. gigas are also classified into four stage of development:
- Stage I = D-shaped straight hinge larvae (shell length <105 µm)
- Stage II = Early umbo evolved larvae (shell length between 105 and 150 µm)
- Stage III = Medium umbo larvae (shell length between 150 and 235 µm)
- Stage IV*= Large umbo eyed pediveliger larvae (shell length > 235 µm)
* Larvae that are very closed to settle are sometimes identified into a separated 5th stage, but generally this stage is included in stage IV.
Location of the different Velyger sites along the French coast. From south to north: Thau Lagoon and bays of Arcachon, Marennes Oléron, Bourgneuf, Vilaine and Brest.
Legend: Pacific Oyster Larvae (left side) and Natural oyster bed (right side). Photos : © S. Pouvreau/Ifremer
47.680343N, 47.301746S, -2.107294E, -3.035638W
48.591761N, 48.062185S, -4.116452E, -5.003598W
47.261185N, 46.676425S, -1.78307E, -2.491688W
46.388328N, 45.567611S, -0.868003E, -1.664512W
45.161046N, 44.215992S, -0.822188E, -1.723066W
43.689862N, 43.139215S, 4.153953E, 3.220115W