NORA Historical Ecology Working Group

Historical sketchs of wild oyster fisheries at Cockenzie, Scotland and spatting ponds in France from Bertram 1865.

The NORA Historical Ecology Working Group, seeks to bring together collaborators from across Europe to develop a deeper understanding of the historical importance, extent and quality of native oyster habitats across its native European range.

The decline of oyster habitats has occurred in many regions across the world. Yet in places where oyster beds were degraded prior to living memory, very little is known about their original extent or the benefits gained by coastal communities from their past presence and use. Across Europe, coastal resource use has an ancient history but much of this information remains in untapped archives or cocooned within disciplinary silos. Consequently, extensive gaps exist in our understanding of the past extent, structure, uses and importance of oyster habitats to coastal and inland communities.

The NORA Historical Ecology Working Group is working together to develop a sound quantitative and qualitative understanding of the European native oyster by drawing on historical archives, maps, naturalist accounts and fishing records from across the native range of the oyster. Exploration of historical texts provides not only an insight into the historical abundance, including locations of oyster reefs, but also uncovers numerous exciting “stories”. Such historical stories are not only interesting in their own right, but also provide fantastic outreach material for current day restoration projects. 

IIf you are interested in learning more about, or contributing to the work of the Historical Ecology Working Group, please contact Dr. Ruth Thurstan at R.Thurstan@exeter.ac.uk.