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  1. Predators can have strong roles in structuring communities defined by foundation species. Accumulating evidence shows that predation on reef-building oysters can be intense and potentially compromise efforts to restore or conserve these globally decimated foundation species. However, understanding the controls on variation in oyster predation strength is impeded by inconsistencies in experimental methodologies. To address this challenge, we conducted the first meta-analysis to quantify the magnitude, uncertainty, and drivers of predator effects on oysters. We synthesized 384 predator-exclusion experiments from 49 peer-reviewed publications over 45 years of study (1977 to 2021). We characterized geographic and temporal patterns in oyster predation experiments, determined the strength of predator effects on oyster mortality and recruitment, and assessed how predation varies with oyster size, environmental conditions, the predator assemblage, and experimental design. Predators caused an average 4.3× increase in oyster mortality and 46% decrease in recruitment. Predation increased with oyster size and varied with predator identity and richness. Unexpectedly, we found no effects of latitude, tidal zone, or tidal range on predation strength. Predator effects differed with experiment type and tethering method, indicating the importance of experimental design and the caution warranted in extrapolating results. Our results quantify the importance of predation for oystermore »populations and suggest that consideration of the drivers of oyster predation in restoration and conservation planning may hasten recovery of these lost coastal foundation species.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 21, 2023
  2. Abstract

    Restoration aims to reverse the global declines of foundation species, but it is unclear how project attributes, the physical setting, and antecedent conditions affect restoration success. In coastal seas worldwide, oyster reef restoration is increasing to counter historical habitat destruction and associated declines in fisheries production and biodiversity. Yet, restoration outcomes are highly variable and the factors that enhance oyster production and nekton abundance and diversity on restored reefs are unresolved. To quantify the drivers of oyster restoration success, we used meta‐analysis to synthesize data from 158 restored reefs paired with unstructured habitats along the United States Gulf and Atlantic coasts. The average recovery of oyster production was 65% greater in subtidal (vs. intertidal) zones, 173% greater in polyhaline (vs. mesohaline) environments and increased with tidal range, demonstrating that physical conditions can strongly influence the restoration success of foundation species. Additionally, restoration increased the relative abundance and richness of nektonic fishes and invertebrates over time as reefs aged (at least 8 years post‐construction). Thus, the restoration benefits for provisioning habitat and enhancing biodiversity accrue over time, highlighting that restoration projects need multiple years to maximize ecosystem functions. Furthermore, long‐term monitoring of restored and control sites is needed to assess restorationmore »outcomes and associated drivers. Last, our work reveals data constraints for several potential drivers of restoration outcomes, including reef construction material, reef dimensions, harvest pressure and disease prevalence. More experimental and observational studies are needed to target these factors and measure them with consistent methods across studies. Our findings indicate that the assisted recovery of foundation species yields several enhancements to ecosystem services, but such benefits are mediated by time and environmental conditions.

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  3. Abstract
    These data describe the estimated dispersal duration of spores of giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, among connectivity cells in a high-resolution, three-dimensional, spatiotemporally-explicit ocean circulation model (Regional Oceanic Modeling System, ROMS) in southern California, USA, for an 11-year period from the beginning of 1996 to the end of 2006. Asymmetrical and dynamic estimates of giant kelp spore dispersal durations connecting source and destination ROMS cells were estimated on monthly and annual timescales using minimum mean transit times.
  4. Restoration is accelerating to reverse global declines of key habitats and recover lost ecosystem functions, particularly in coastal ecosystems. However, there is high uncertainty about the long-term capacity of restored ecosystems to provide habitat and increase biodiversity and the degree to which these ecosystem services are mediated by spatial and temporal environmental variability. We addressed these gaps by sampling fishes biannually for 5–7 years (2012–2018) at 16 sites inside and outside a rapidly expanding restored seagrass meadow in coastal Virginia (USA). Despite substantial among-year variation in abun-dance and species composition, seine catches in restored seagrass beds were consistently larger (6.4 times more fish, p<0.001) and more speciose (2.6 times greater species richness, p<0.001; 3.1 times greater Hill–Shannon diversity, p=0.03) than seine catches in adjacent unvegetated areas. Catches were particularly larger during summer than autumn(p<0.01). Structural equation modeling revealed that depth and water residence time interacted to control seagrass presence, leading to higher fish abundance and richness in shallow, well-flushed areas that supported seagrass. Together, our results indicate that seagrass restoration yields large and consistent benefits for many coastal fishes, but that restoration and its benefits are sensitive to the dynamic seascapes in which restoration is conducted. Consideration of how seascape-scalemore »environmental variability affects the success of habitat restoration and subsequent ecosystem function will improve restoration outcomes and the provisioning of ecosystem services.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  5. Abstract Blue crabs ( Callinectes sapidus ) are highly mobile, ecologically-important mesopredators that support multimillion-dollar fisheries along the western Atlantic Ocean. Understanding how blue crabs respond to coastal landscape change is integral to conservation and management, but such insights have been limited to a narrow range of habitats and spatial scales. We examined how local-scale to landscape-scale habitat characteristics and bathymetric features (channels and oceanic inlets) affect the relative abundance (catch per unit effort, CPUE) of adult blue crabs across a > 33 km 2 seagrass landscape in coastal Virginia, USA. We found that crab CPUE was 1.7 × higher in sparse (versus dense) seagrass, 2.4 × higher at sites farther from (versus nearer to) salt marshes, and unaffected by proximity to oyster reefs. The probability that a trapped crab was female was 5.1 × higher in sparse seagrass and 8 × higher near deep channels. The probability of a female crab being gravid was 2.8 × higher near seagrass meadow edges and 3.3 × higher near deep channels. Moreover, the likelihood of a gravid female having mature eggs was 16 × greater in sparse seagrass and 32 × greater near oceanic inlets. Overall, we discovered that adult blue crab CPUE is influenced by seagrass, salt marsh, and bathymetric features on scales from meters to kilometers, and thatmore »habitat associations depend on sex and reproductive stage. Hence, accelerating changes to coastal geomorphology and vegetation will likely alter the abundance and distribution of adult blue crabs, challenging marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based fisheries management.« less
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  8. Abstract
    These data describe 1987-2019 time series of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) biomass and associated environmental variables (wave height, nitrate concentration, climate indices) at quarterly and annual time intervals. Data for spatially resolvable variables (giant kelp biomass, wave height, nitrate concentration) pertain to 361 coastline segments (500 m length) in southern and central California where giant kelp was persistent over the sampling period. Data are contained in 5 tables: 1) quarterly time series of giant kelp biomass, wave height, and nitrate concentrations for 361 coastline segments; 2) quarterly time series of aspatial climate indices (NPGO, MEI, PDO); 3) annual time series of giant kelp biomass, wave height, and nitrate concentrations for 361 coastline segments; 4) annual time series of aspatial climate indices (NPGO, MEI, PDO); 5) locations (latitude and longitude of center) of coastline segments. Kelp data are derived from satellite imagery using empirical relationships. Wave data are derived from an empirically validated swell propagation model. Nitrate data are derived from empirical relationships with remotely-sensed sea surface temperature.
  9. Global loss of biodiversity and its associated ecosystem services is occurring at an alarming rate and is predicted to accelerate in the future. Metacommunity theory provides a framework to investigate multi-scale processes that drive change in biodiversity across space and time. Short-term ecological studies across space have progressed our understanding of biodiversity through a metacommunity lens, however, such snapshots in time have been limited in their ability to explain which processes, at which scales, generate observed spatial patterns. Temporal dynamics of metacommunities have been understudied, and large gaps in theory and empirical data have hindered progress in our understanding of underlying metacommunity processes that give rise to biodiversity patterns. Fortunately, we are at an important point in the history of ecology, where long-term studies with cross-scale spatial replication provide a means to gain a deeper understanding of the multiscale processes driving biodiversity patterns in time and space to inform metacommunity theory. The maturation of coordinated research and observation networks, such as the United States Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, provides an opportunity to advance explanation and prediction of biodiversity change with observational and experimental data at spatial and temporal scales greater than any single research group could accomplish. Synthesismore »of LTER network community datasets illustrates that long-term studies with spatial replication present an under-utilized resource for advancing spatio-temporal metacommunity research. We identify challenges towards synthesizing these data and present recommendations for addressing these challenges. We conclude with insights about how future monitoring efforts by coordinated research and observation networks could further the development of metacommunity theory and its applications aimed at improving conservation efforts.« less