Virginia Institute of Marine Science
As the oyster aquaculture industry grows and becomes incorporated into management practices, it is important to understand its effects on local environments. This study investigated how water quality and hydrodynamics varied among farms as well as inside versus outside the extent of caged grow-out areas located in southern Chesapeake Bay. Current speed and water quality variables (chlorophyll-a fluorescence, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen) were measured along multiple transects within and adjacent to four oyster farms during two seasons. At the scale of individual aquaculture sites, we were able to detect statistically significant differences in current speed and water quality variables between the areas inside and outside the farms. However, the magnitudes of the water quality differences were minor. Differences between sites and between seasons for water quality variables were typically an order of magnitude greater than those observed within each site (i.e. inside and outside the farm footprint). The relatively small effect of the presence of oysters on water quality is likely attributable to a combination of high background variability, relatively high flushing rates, relatively low oyster density, and small farm footprints. Minimal impacts overall suggest that low-density oyster farms located in adequately-flushed areas are unlikely to negatively impact local water quality.
Associated datafiles available at: https://doi.org/10.25773/wwva-tz18
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Turner, Jessica; Kellogg, M. Lisa; Massey, Grace M.; and Friedrichs, Carl, Minimal effects of oyster aquaculture on local water quality: Examples from southern Chesapeake Bay (2019). PLoS ONE, 14(11), e0224768.