Biological Assessment of Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) Inhabiting Reef, Mangrove, Seawall, and Restoration Substrates

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dermo, habitat, recruitment, reproduction, tampa bay

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The eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, plays an essential functional role in many estuarine ecosystems on the east and Gulf coasts of the USA. Oysters form biogenic reefs but also live on alternative intertidal substrates such as artificial surfaces and mangrove prop roots. The hypothesis tested in this study was that non-reef-dwelling oysters (i.e., those inhabiting mangrove, seawall, or restoration substrates) were similar to their reef-dwelling counterparts based upon a suite of biological parameters. The study was carried out at six sites in three zones in Tampa Bay on the west coast of Florida using monthly samples collected from October 2008-September 2009. The timing of gametogenesis and spawning, fecundity, and juvenile recruitment were the same for oysters in all four habitats. Oyster size (measured as shell height), density, and Perkinsus marinus infection intensity and prevalence varied among habitats. This study indicates that oysters on mangroves, seawalls, and oyster restoration substrates contribute larvae, habitats for other species, and likely other ecosystem benefits similar to those of intertidal oyster reefs in Tampa Bay. Oysters from alternative intertidal substrates should be included in any system wide studies of oyster abundance, clearance rates, and the provision of alternate habitats, especially in highly developed estuaries.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Estuaries and Coasts, v. 37, issue 4, p. 962-972