Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Efforts to restore Crassostrea virginica oyster reef habitats in Chesapeake Bay typically begin with the placement of hard substrata, such as oyster shell, in the form ofthreedimensional mounds on the seabed to serve as a base for oyster recruitment and growth. A shortage of sufficient volumes of oyster shell for creating large-scale reefs has led to widespread use of other materials, such as surf clam (Spisula solidissima) shell, as a substitute for oyster shell. We monitored oyster recruitment, survival, and growth on intertidal and subtidal reefs constructed shucked oyster and surf clam shell. Results indicate that oyster settlement occurred on both substrate types throughout the monitoring period but high levels of postsettlement mortality occurred on clam shell mounds. On the subtidal clam shell mound, the quality of the substrate material varied with reef elevation with large shell fragments and intact valves scattered around the reef base and small, tightly packed shell fragments paving the crest and flank of the reef mound. The abundance of oysters on this reef reflected this distribution where oysters were more abundant and larger at the reef base and less abundant and smaller on the crest of the reef. Oyster shell reefs supported greater oyster growth and survival and offered the highest degree of structural complexity. We suggest that the availability of interstitial space and appropriate settlement surfaces account for the observed differences in oyster abundance across the reef systems. The patterns observed give context to the importance of substrate selection in similar restoration activities.


Final Report on research conducted in the Goodwin Islands (Virginia) CBNERR VA Site


oyster reefs, habitat restoration, recruitment substrate, oyster stocks, Virginia, Chesapeake Bay, intertidal, sub tidal


NOAA Award No. NA970R0147



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