Fish Utilization of Created vs. Natural Oyster Reefs (Crassostrea virginica)
Once viewed as an inexhaustible fishery resource, eastern oyster reefs (Crassostrea virginica) have been dramatically depleted. In North Carolina alone, eastern oyster harvests have declined by 90% since the early 1900s. However, eastern oyster restoration and management efforts have substantially increased since the 1970s. Oyster reefs provide habitat and refuge for organisms, improve water quality, and decrease erosion. Oyster restoration projects aim to construct reefs that function similarly to their natural counterparts. Therefore, post-creation monitoring of these reefs is crucial in determining restoration success. However, monitoring is often lacking or focused only on oyster density and size rather than ecosystem functions such as nekton utilization. This study examines nekton utilization among created reefs compared to natural reefs in an estuary in Wilmington, North Carolina. The objective was to determine whether the created reefs function similarly to the natural reefs in abundance, species richness, and fish size. Using seine nets and Breder traps, reefs were sampled over a 5-month period. No significant difference was detected among reefs for nekton abundance, species richness, and standard length. This is a promising result for future management, indicating that created and natural reefs can support similar communities of fishes and shrimp.
KeywordsRestoration Intertidal Management Estuary Ecosystem services
I would like to thank my mentors and committee members, Troy Alphin and Martin Posey, for their support over the past 4 years and guidance over this project. I would also like to thank Donald Buth for his editorial assistance and Noa Pinter-Wollman for her statistical insight. I am also grateful to the many undergraduate field assistants who aided in field sampling and Thomas Lankford for confirming fish identifications. I would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor for providing detailed notes and necessary improvements to this manuscript. Lastly, I would like to thank my family: Tamara Rutledge, Glenn Rutledge, Hollie Rutledge, and Derek Kirkbride for supporting me throughout my scientific career.
- Beck, M.W., R.D. Brumbaugh, L. Airoldi, A. Carranza, L.D. Coen, C. Crawford, O. Defeo, G.J. Edgar, B. Hancock, M.C. Kay, H.S. Lenihan, M.W. Luckenbach, C.L. Toropova, G. Zhang, and X. Guo. 2011. Oyster reefs at risk and recommendations for conservation, restoration, and management. BioScience 61 (2): 107–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Blair, S., C. Adams, T. Ankerson, M. Mcguire, and D. Kaplan. 2015. Ecosystem services valuation for estuarine and coastal restoration in Florida. Gainesville: Florida Sea Grant/University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Electronic Data Information Source.Google Scholar
- Breder, C.M. 1960. Design a fry trap. Zoologica 45: 155–160.Google Scholar
- Breitburg, D.L., L.D. Coen, M.W. Luckenbach, R. Mann, M. Posey, and J. Wesson. 2000. Oyster reef restoration: convergence of harvest and conservation strategies. Journal of Shellfish Research 19: 371–378.Google Scholar
- Brumbaugh, R.D., and L.D. Coen. 2009. Contemporary approaches for small scale oyster reef restoration to address substrate versus recruitment limitation: a review and comments relevant for the Olympia oyster, Ostrea lurida Carpenter 1864. Journal of Shellfish Research 28: 147–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Coen, L.D., M.W. Luckenbach, and D.L. Breitburg. 1999. The role of oyster reefs as essential fish habitat: a review of current knowledge and some new perspectives. American Fisheries Society Symposium 22: 438–454.Google Scholar
- Dewberry and Davis, INC. 2002. Hewletts Creek Restoration Plan for recreational and shellfish waters. Storm Water Master Plan for the 1998 Annexation Area of the City of Wilmington Volume II Appendix C. https://www.wilmingtonnc.gov/home/showdocument?id=2152.
- Fan, C., Clark, K. 2015. Phase II evaluation of waste concrete road materials for use in oyster aquaculture field test final report, SHA Maryland Department of Transportation, 2015. MD-15-SHA-MSU-3-12.Google Scholar
- FAO 1980. Catalogue Shrimps and Prawns of the World. An Annotated Catalogue of Species of Interest to Fisheries.L.B. Holthuis. FAO fisheries synopsis no. 125, Volume 1.Google Scholar
- Fear, J. and C. Currin. 2012. Sustainable estuarine shoreline stabilization: research, education and public policy in North Carolina. NOAA/UNH Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology, Report. http://www.nccoastalreserve.net/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=74b7e822-1dc5-42d0-a004-1cd65b203ba4&groupId=61572.
- Finelli, C.M, A.E. Wilbur, M.H. Posey, and T. D. Alphin. 2013. To seed or not to seed: the value of seeding restored oyster reefs for ecosystem services. North Carolina Sea Grant. Rpt # R/10SSS-4. Raleigh, NC.Google Scholar
- Griffitt, J.M., M. Posey, and T. Alphin. 1999. Effects of edge fragmentation on oyster reef utilization by transient nekton. The Journal of Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 115: 98–103.Google Scholar
- Jackson, J.B., M.X. Kirby, W.H. Berger, K.A. Bjorndal, L.W. Botsford, B.J. Bourque, R.H. Bradbury, R. Cooke, J. Erlandson, J.A. Estes, T.P. Hughes, S. Kidwell, C.B. Lange, H.S. Lenihan, J.M. Pandolfi, C.H. Peterson, R.S. Steneck, M.J. Tegner, and R.R. Warner. 2001. Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems. Science 293 (5530): 629–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Meyer, D.L., E.C. Townsend and P.L. Murphy, 1996. The evaluation of restored wetlands and enhancement methods for existing restorations. Final Report, Office of Habitat Conservation, NOAA, Silver Spring, MD.Google Scholar
- Nelson, K.A., L.A. Leonard, M.H. Posey, T.D. Alphin, and M.A. Mallin. 2004. Transplanted oyster (Crassostrea virginica) beds as a self-sustaining mechanism for water quality improvement in small tidal creeks. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 298 (2): 347–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- O’beirn, F.X., M.W. Luckenbach, J.A. Nestlerode, and G.M. Coates. 2000. Toward design criteria in constructed oyster reefs: oyster recruitment as a function of substrate type and tidal height. Journal of Shellfish Research 19: 387–395.Google Scholar
- Posey, M.H., T.D. Alphin, C.M. Powell, and E. Townsend. 1999. Use of oyster reefs as habitat for epibenthic fish and decapods. In Oyster reef habitat restoration: A synopsis and synthesis of approaches, ed. M.W. Luckenbach, R. Mann, and J.A. Wesson, 229–237. Virginia: Virginia Institute of Marine Science Press. https://doi.org/10.21220/V5NK51.Google Scholar
- R CORE TEAM. 2017. R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. URL http://www.R-project.org/.