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Title: Diminishing returns in habitat restoration by adding biogenic materials: a test using estuarine oysters and recycled oyster shell

Restoration of degraded estuarine oyster reefs typically involves deploying recycled oyster shell. In low‐salinity, low‐predation areas of estuaries, high‐volume shell deployments are known to improve flow conditions and thus oyster survival and growth. It is also hypothesized that the physical structure of restored reefs could suppress foraging by oyster predators in high‐salinity, high‐predation zones. That hypothesis is untested. Given limited resources, it is important to determine how much shell is needed for successful restoration and whether there are diminishing returns in shell addition. In Apalachicola Bay, Florida, we manipulated shell volume on an oyster reef to create three 0.4 ha areas of low (no shell addition), moderate (153 m3shell), and high (306 m3shell) habitat structure. We repeated experiments and surveys over 2 years to determine if restoration success increased with habitat structure. Predation on oysters was greater on the non‐shelled area than on the reshelled reefs, but similar between the two reshelled reefs. Oyster larval supply did not differ among the reef areas, but by the end of the experiment, oyster density (per unit area) increased quadratically with habitat structure, plateauing at high levels of structure. Model selection indicated that the most parsimonious explanation for these patterns was that increased habitat structure reduced predation and increased overall recruitment, but that the higher reshelling treatment did not have better outcomes than moderate reshelling. Thus, restoration could be optimized by deploying a moderate amount of shell per unit area.

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Award ID(s):
1917029 1916870
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Restoration Ecology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1633-1642
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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