Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

VIMS Department/Program

Institute History (VIMS)

Publication Date



VIMS 75th Anniversary Alumni Research Symposium


Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, VA


Oyster reefs provide a suite of valuable ecosystem services, such as water filtration, nitrogen sequestration, and provision of habitat and foraging grounds. The global decline of these habitats has had negative economic and ecological impacts to coastal waters worldwide. In the Chesapeake Bay, < 1% of the historic oyster population remains and efforts to restore oyster populations and the services they provide have been increasing. Building reefs that successfully provide specific ecosystem services may require different techniques then previously used, and success may depend on reef morphology, location, and environmental conditions. Settling trays were embedded into previously restored oyster reefs that varied in their structural complexity (rugosity) in multiple rivers in the lower Chesapeake Bay. Trays were collected after 7-weeks, sorted, and species identified and weighed (ash-free dry weight) to obtain species diversity, abundance, and biomass. Species composition data was analyzed using nMDS plots, which showed that salinity was an important driver of differences in species composition. Results of an ANOVA analysis found that species diversity was significantly greater on reefs in the high-salinity rivers compared to reefs in low-salinity rivers. Total organism abundance and biomass were positively correlated with reef structural complexity measures, such as rugosity, oyster clump volume, and oyster biomass. These results suggest that more complex oyster reefs in higher salinity locations may support more diverse and productive benthic communities. This study provides insight into the driving factors that structure oyster reef communities and has important implications for oyster reef restoration design and management.


Poster, VIMS 75th Anniversary, Institute History, Alumni, Oyster Reefs, Habitat Restoration