ABSTRACT

Solomon, J.A.; Donnelly, M.J., and Walters, L.J., 2014. Effects of sea level rise on the intertidal oyster Crassostrea Virginica by field experiments.

Sea level rise predictions for the next century range from 20 to 200 cm. Coupled with climate change-related increases in storm activity and associated alterations to sediment transport, estuaries and the organisms that live in them may be impacted. Along the eastern seaboard and gulf coast of the United States, Crassostrea virginica is an economically and ecologically important estuarine shellfish species. In an effort to understand potential effects of climate change on intertidal Crassostrea virginica, a novel method for manipulating inundation time of intertidal oysters was developed to examine effects of altering daily inundation time on sedimentation, predation, and competition. Called the oyster ladder, this method consists of suspending oyster shell as recruitment substrate at different elevations within the intertidal zone between mean low and mean high water. A six-week experiment was deployed during the peak of the 2011 oyster recruitment season at two sites within Apalachicola Bay, Florida. Data was collected on oyster recruitment, shell length, presence of sessile competitors, and sedimentation. Mean oyster shell length peaked at 95% time inundated, while recruitment peaked at 80% time inundation. Maximum sedimentation occurred at the highest inundation times (95% time inundation). The oyster ladder proved to be an effective tool for manipulating inundation times for C. virginica and suggests that sea level rise will have an effect on abundance, growth and survival of this of intertidal species.

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