Crassostrea virginica, eastern oyster, boat wake, boating impacts
There have long been concerns about the negative impacts of recreational boating activity in the Indian River Lagoon system (IRL), especially in Mosquito Lagoon (ML), the northernmost part of the IRL. My research is focused on the impacts of boat wakes on intertidal reefs formed by the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. There has been a 24% loss of oyster habitat in ML since 1943, where natural oyster reefs have been replaced by dead oyster reefs which do not serve the same ecological function. While there is anecdotal and correlative evidence that this loss is a result of boat wakes, no studies to date have confirmed dead reefs can be a direct result of boat wakes. Therefore, I addressed the following questions: (1) What wake heights are generated by a range of boat types, and (2) What amount of oyster movement and erosion occurs as a result of these boat wakes? A series of boat pass experiments addressed the first question; these results were utilized in experiments at Florida Institute of Technology's wave tank to observe sediment erosion and oyster movement as a result of specific wake heights. Model selection was used for both the field and wave tank experiments to determine which variables contributed most to explaining the wake heights, erosion, and oyster movement that occurred. Wake heights ranging from 0.05 cm to 20.80 cm were documented contacting the oyster reefs from the boat passes, with a mean of 2.95 cm. Boat type was less important than speed or distance when determining wake height. My wave tank results document that wake heights as small as 2 cm contacting oysters are capable of moving individual and clusters of oysters. Minimum distances for boats to travel in order to maintain wakes smaller than 2 cm at reefs are suggested for management purposes based on regression equations. This could minimize the amount of movement that occurs when oysters are subjected to boat wakes. The results of this study can help resource managers implement boating policies in Mosquito Lagoon, and contribute greatly to conserving this important ecosystem engineer.
Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Campbell, Donna, "Quantifying the effects of boat wakes on intertidal oyster reefs in a shallow estuary" (2015). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 58.