Crassostrea virginica; Vertebrates; Animal Behavior


Restoration of the oyster reefs has become increasingly crucial due to great population declines around the globe. Intertidal oyster reefs provide essential foraging and loafing grounds to many faunal species, including several threatened/endangered wading bird species. Biodegradable oyster reef restoration materials have been introduced to avoid potential plastic pollution from traditional materials. Studies have shown success regarding oyster recruitment rates to these materials. However, their impacts on fauna using restored oyster reefs are unknown. This project aims to evaluate oyster reef restoration using biodegradable materials to increase faunal diversity, abundance, and foraging behaviors. Camera traps were deployed to observe fauna on reefs of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) in summer 2021, winter 2022, and summer 2022 in Mosquito Lagoon, FL. Treatments included Biodegradable EcoSystem Engineering Elements (BESE) shell mats, cement-jute tiles, and cement-jute rings. Unrestored, live reefs were used as positive controls, and unrestored, dead reefs (piles of disarticulated shell) were used as negative controls with three replicates of each treatment. A total of 11,458 vertebrates were observed out of 82,261 video clips. These comprised 44 species, including seven species of birds listed as threatened in the state of FL. There was a significant interaction between timeframe and treatment for non-foraging behaviors, such as loafing, grooming, and walking. Restoration materials did not decrease counts of foraging. However, foraging counts significantly varied over time, based on bird migratory patterns and time since restoration. This research provides essential information on the faunal use of restored and unrestored oyster reefs and highlights the importance of a mosaic of oyster reef types in estuarine systems.

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Thesis Chair

Walters, Linda


College of Sciences



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Access Status

Open Access

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Campus Location

Orlando (Main) Campus