Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.

Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Pamela Hallock Muller

Co-Major Professor

William S. Arnold

Keywords

Alternative Substrates, Crassostrea virginica, Ecosystem Function, Epifaunal Community, Shoreline Management

Abstract

The objective of this project was to document the status of oysters, Crassostrea virginica, from non-reef habitats throughout Tampa Bay, Florida, and assess the ecosystem contributions of those populations relative to reef-dwelling oysters. The aspects of oyster ecology studied here include condition, prevalence and intensity of disease (Perkinsus marinus - dermo), reproductive activity (including stage, fecundity, and juvenile recruitment), adult oyster density, and the faunal community associated with the oysters.

The predominant source of variation was seasonal, with lesser contributions among sites, and in most cases, little or no effect of the habitat type. Oysters populations from each habitat recruit juvenile oysters, produce mature individuals, and contribute viable gametes at the same magnitude with similar seasonality. The associated faunal communities were also largely similar between habitats at any given site. Measures of oyster density, combined with estimates of the total available habitat, suggest that natural oyster reefs may represent only a small portion of the total oyster community in Tampa Bay, while oysters associated with mangrove habitats and seawalls are probably the most abundant in the bay. Additional mapping and quantification of these habitats would help to define their bay-wide ecosystem-services value. Restoration projects, though small in size relative to other habitats, do provide alternative and additional habitat with comparable value to other oyster-bearing habitats.

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