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Title: Quantifying Tradeoffs in Ecosystem Services Under Various Oyster Reef Restoration Designs
Oyster populations within the coastal bays of Virginia have greatly declined, mainly due to overharvesting and disease, and past restoration efforts have largely focused on increasing their populations. Current restoration goals have now expanded to simultaneously procure the wider ecosystem services oysters can offer, including shoreline protection and ecosystem diversification. However, tradeoffs exist in designing artificial reefs because it is unlikely one design will optimize all services. This study compares the services provided by reef designs varying in elevation and width located adjacent to an intertidal marsh within a coastal bay of VA, USA. We quantified wave attenuation to determine potential coastal protection of the adjacent marsh, and changes to sediment composition and infaunal communities before and after reef construction for 3 years. After construction, we also quantified oyster size and population density to compare high and low elevation reef designs. High elevation reefs were more effective at attenuating waves and fostering oyster growth compared to low elevation reefs. Oysters atop high elevation reefs were on average approximately twice as dense and 20% larger than those on low elevation designs. Reef width had a minimal effect on oyster population density; densities on high and low reefs were similar for designs more » with one or three rows. The presence of oyster reefs also increased infaunal diversity and sediment organic matter. Our results indicate that artificial reef design can differentially affect the services provided through restoration, and elevation is especially important to consider when designing for oyster population enhancement and coastal protection. « less
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Estuaries and Coasts
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National Science Foundation
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