Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Within the Harris Creek Oyster Sanctuary in the Maryland portion of Chesapeake Bay, we evaluated relationships between basic oyster reef characteristics and the abundance and biomass of macrofauna. The eight sites selected for these studies included five restored oyster reef sites and three sites suitable for restoration that had not been restored. These sites encompassed a range of oyster biomass density and were spread throughout the sanctuary area. At each site one month prior to each of four sampling periods, divers filled four wire mesh baskets (0.1m2 surface area x 15 cm depth) with material from the site and embedded them so that the surface was flush with the surrounding substratum. In spring, early summer, late summer and fall of 2015, divers collected baskets and returned them to the laboratory where all macrofauna ≥1 mm were collected from each sample and their identity, abundance and biomass were determined. In addition to the abundance and biomass of oysters, we also assessed the amount of surface as the volume of live oysters along with that of any oyster shells whose surface was at least 50% oxic based on coloration (i.e. black shell was presumed to have been buried below the surface in anoxic conditions).

Positive relationships were identified for all three reef characteristics and the three major macrofaunal groups examined. In the majority of seasons, the relationship between both biomass and abundance of the hooked mussel, Ischadium recurvum, as a power function of oyster tissue biomass density, oyster abundance per square meter and surface shell volume. The relationship between oyster reef characteristics and the biomass and abundance of the mud crab, Eurypanopeus depressus, and of the naked goby, Gobiosoma bosc, were always positive but were more variable than that for I. recurvum. These data demonstrate that relationships can be found between oyster reef characteristics and macrofauna abundance and biomass. They further demonstrate that, in many cases, simple measures of reef characteristics such as oyster abundance and shell volume can provide predictions of macrofauna abundance and biomass that are comparable to more labor intensive measures such as oyster tissue biomass.


A final report to: NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office



Oysters--Habitat--Conservation; Restoration ecology; Reef ecology


Award Number: NA13NMF4570209; Award Period: 01-March-2014 to 29-Feb-2016; Grantee Org.: University of Maryland