Predicting oyster reef restoration success from juvenile oyster growth in the Chesapeake Bay
Native Oyster beds in the Chesapeake bay have decreased in populations due to urbanization and human impacts on the aquatic habitats. Long appreciated as important ecosystem services, oyster reef restoration projects are provided for sustaining and enhancing the bay’s natural resources. Oysters settled on shells were placed by community members off their docks at forty nine sites and grown for ten months for use in local restoration efforts. Data was collected for the abiotic conditions at the sites as well as survival and growth of the juvenile oysters.
Potential future restoration sites can be determined by assessing the shell length(growth), survival rates, and tissue/shell ratio of juvenile oysters. The Southern and Magothy Rivers were measured to be the healthiest habitats based on greater shell lengths and higher shell/tissue ratios. The length and surival rates at the sites varied and seemed correlated to the salinty and temperature at the sites. The tissue to shell ratois were found to be higher at some sites which indicates that those sites might have lower abundances of predators. Qualifying potential restoration sites for oyster reefs and gardens increases tax returns and helps the local economy.