Oyster reefs are important estuarine ecosystems that provide habitat to many species including threatened and endangered wading birds and commercially important fishes and crabs. Infaunal organisms (i.e. small, aquatic animals that burrow in the sediment) are also supported by oyster reef habitats. Infaunal organisms are critical to marine food webs and are consumed by many important species that inhabit coastal estuaries. However, over the past century 85% of shellfish reef habitats have been lost, making restoration of these areas vital. Due to their important role in coastal food webs, infauna is hypothesized to be a strong indicator of habitat productivity to document the transition from a dead to a restored and living intertidal oyster reef. Research was conducted in Mosquito Lagoon of the northern Indian River Lagoon system. Three replicate samples were collected from 12 intertidal oyster reefs (four dead, four live, four restored). Samples were collected one-week pre-restoration and one month and six months post-restoration. Infauna was counted and sorted into six taxonomic categories: polychaetes, amphipods, isopods, gastropods, bivalves, and decapods. Reef infaunal abundance increased following restoration: restored reefs became more similar to live reefs one month following restoration. Six months after restoration restored reefs were also significantly different than dead reefs. Live reefs consistently had high infaunal abundance and dead reefs consistently had low abundance, while restored reefs were intermediate. These data suggest restored reefs are more productive than their dead counterparts, with restoration showing a positive trajectory to impact numerous infaunal species and their associated food webs.
Walters, Linda J.
Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
College of Sciences
Orlando (Main) Campus
Harris, Katherine P., "Oyster Reef Restoration: Impacts on Infaunal Communities in a Shallow Water Estuary" (2018). Honors Undergraduate Theses. 366.