Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 800–814 | Cite as

The Influence of Oyster Farming on Sediment Bacterial Communities

  • Sarah G. Feinman
  • Yuna R. Farah
  • Jonathan M. Bauer
  • Jennifer L. BowenEmail author


Aquaculture currently provides half of all fish for human consumption, and this proportion is expected to increase to meet the growing global demand for protein. As aquaculture, including oyster farming, expands, it is increasingly important to understand effects on coastal ecosystems. The broad-scale ecological effects of oyster aquaculture are well documented; however, less is known regarding the influence of oyster aquaculture on sediment bacterial communities. To better understand this relationship, we compared three different oyster farming practices that varied in oyster biomass and proximity of oysters to the sediment. We used high-throughput sequencing and quantitative polymerase chain reaction to examine the effect of oyster farming on sediment bacterial communities. We examined the entire bacterial community and looked specifically at bacteria that support essential estuarine ecosystem services (denitrifiers), as well as bacteria that can be detrimental to human health (members of the Vibrio genus). We found that oyster biomass increased Vibrio richness and sediment carbon content, which influenced bacterial community composition. When compared to reference sites, the overall abundance of bacteria was increased by the bottom planting method, but the associated increases in denitrifiers and Vibrio were not significant. We were unable to detect V. parahaemolyticus, V. vulnificus, or V. cholera, the three most common Vibrio pathogens, in any sample, suggesting that oyster farming did not enhance these potential human pathogens in sediments at the time of sampling. These results highlight how differences in oyster farming practice can affect sediment bacterial communities, and the ecosystem services they provide.


Eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica Oyster aquaculture Sediment bacterial communities Vibrio High throughput sequencing 16S rRNA gene nirS gene Quantitative PCR 



We would like to thank John Brawley and Island Creek Oyster Company for allowing us to sample their oyster leases and for help and guidance in designing this experiment. We would like to thank Michael Tlusty for connecting us with the Island Creek team. We would also like to acknowledge the guidance of Jarrett Byrnes in statistical analyses and sample design. Thank you to Patrick Kearns, John Angell, and all the members of the Bowen Lab for assistance. Sequence analyses were made possible through the use of the supercomputing facilities managed by the Research Computing Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Sediment characteristics were analyzed at the Environmental Analytical Facility at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Funding for this project was provided by the University of Massachusetts Boston Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant (SGF), the Sanofi Genzyme Educational Foundation Grant (YRF), and National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates awards DBI-1062374 and DBI-1359242 to Dr. Alan Christian and Dr. Robin Hannigan. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the constructive comments of external reviewers that improved the quality of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

12237_2017_301_MOESM1_ESM.docx (392 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 391 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah G. Feinman
    • 1
  • Yuna R. Farah
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jonathan M. Bauer
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jennifer L. Bowen
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  2. 2.Kent State University College of Podiatric MedicineIndependenceUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Market TransformationWashingtonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Marine and Environmental SciencesNortheastern UniversityNahantUSA

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