Early Post-Settlement Growth in Wild Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica Gemlin 1791) Populations
Management and restoration of wild oyster populations with the ecosystem services they provide require detailed understanding of oyster population dynamics, including temporally and spatially varying growth. Much of the existing literature documenting growth rates for eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) reports growth for large, protected, and/or hatchery-spawned oysters. By following growth of wild oysters set on planted clamshells in Delaware Bay, we document early growth (within the first year) of 21 wild oyster cohorts settling over 8 years and assess the importance of interannual variability in temperature and salinity. In general, oysters follow a linear growth trajectory in the first year of life, interspersed by periods of little to no growth in the colder months. Wild oysters settling in the Delaware Bay mid-salinity region reach a size between 27 and 33 mm in their first year and tend to reach greater shell heights at 1 year of age in higher salinity years and at temperatures averaging 23 °C. Multi-year, population-level estimates of wild growth such as these are important for understanding changes in restored and managed oyster populations, and resulting ecosystem services, under naturally variable conditions.
KeywordsCrassostrea virginica Early life history Post-metamorphic growth Spat
We gratefully acknowledge the longstanding cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware Bay Section of the New Jersey Shellfisheries Council, with whom shell-planting efforts are conducted each year. E. McGurk, I. Burt, and J. Gius were integral in data collection and shell plant monitoring. Support for shell planting and monitoring was provided by the state of New Jersey in consultation with the Delaware Bay Section of the Shellfisheries Council and Section 1135 of the USACE Continuing Authorities Program. This work was partially supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch project accession numbers 1002345 and 1009201 through the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Hatch projects NJ32115 and NJ32114.
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