Habitat assessment of a restored oyster reef in South Texas

Date

2018

Authors

Bloomberg, Brittany N.
Palmer, Terence A.
Montagna, Paul A.
Pollack, Jennifer Beseres

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Ecological Engineering

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Abstract

Oyster reefs are important foundational habitats and provide many ecosystem services. A century of habitat degradation has resulted in substantial reductions in the extent and quality of oyster reefs in many estuaries, thus spurring restoration efforts. In this study, a 1.5 ha oyster reef complex was constructed in Copano Bay, Texas to restore habitat for oysters and associated fauna. Oysters and resident and transient fishes and crustaceans were monitored at the restored reef as well as at nearby natural oyster reef and unrestored bottom (i.e., dense mud with shell hash) habitats for two years following reef construction. The restored reef had substantial oyster recruitment and growth, with oyster abundance and size comparable to nearby habitats within the first year. Resident and transient fauna communities recruited to the restored reef within six months post-construction, and abundance and diversity were comparable to nearby habitats. Significant changes observed in oyster densities between the first and second year post-restoration demonstrate the importance of monitoring over multiple years to capture multiple recruitment cycles and growth to market size. Nekton densities did not change significantly after the first year, but changes in community assemblages were observed through the end of the study. The high densities of oysters and resident nekton relative to other studies indicate that this restoration project was successful in restoring suitable habitat. The design of the reef complex, consisting of relatively high-relief reef mounds and deeper corridors, likely contributed to the relatively high oyster and nekton densities observed in this study. Overall, the restored reef in this study showed tremendous near-term success in providing important ecological functions associated with habitat provision and oyster production.

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Blomberg, B.N., T.A. Palmer, P.A. Montagna, and J.B. Pollack. 2018. Habitat assessment of a restored oyster reef in South Texas. Ecological Engineering 122: 48-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2018.07.012

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