Experimental Oyster Leases as a Platform for Demonstrating Effective Restoration Strategies and Assessing Influence on Gulf Sturgeon Habitat/Component 4: Gulf Sturgeon

Grants and Contracts Details

Description

Experimental Oyster Leases as a Platform for Demonstrating Effective Restoration Practices Statement of Work Introduction: The continued decline in commercial landings of Eastern oyster in Mississippi over the past one and a half decades has led to the state prioritizing oyster restoration and enhancement. However, selecting suitable habitat for oyster reef restoration is complicated by the Mississippi Sound being designated a federally protected critical habitat for the federally threatened and state endangered Gulf Sturgeon (GS). Therefore, prior to any restoration efforts or oyster reef planting these activities must be assessed for any potential impact to the species as these efforts have the potential to alter habitat characteristics (sediment composition, water quality, and macroinvertebrate density) that are important to the life history of GS. The Gulf Sturgeon Recovery Plan acknowledges that the bulk of science related to GS habitat dependency is based on eastern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) habitat data. Data regarding the relative importance of silty substrates and oyster reefs that dominate western GOM GS habitats is lacking; thus, the current review and design of oyster restoration projects is more dependent on ‘inference’ of GS habitat rather than ‘knowledge.’ This study will focus on advancing science to improve the knowledge of GS habitat use surrounding natural oyster reefs versus open bottom habitats (controls) as well as GS habitat use prior to, during, and after creation of experimental oyster reefs. In doing so, we propose an approach to monitor the experimental reefs quantitatively to detect any ecosystem-based influences or shifts on GS as well as other telemetered species that may directly benefit from the creation of experimental oyster reefs. We believe that this is critical as effective restoration efforts will benefit from monitoring plans that can address ecosystem impacts and functionality as well as be implemented within an adaptive management framework, as telemetry-based studies are able to accommodate. Scope of Work: We propose a multifaceted approach to characterize GS and teleost (Black Drum and Sheepshead) habitat use for both proposed oyster lease regions (2 plots in each of Back Bay and St. Louis Bay). Within each region we will (1) develop a passive acoustic telemetry array that incorporates natural oyster reef, open silt-bottom habitat, and an open bottom habitat that will eventually be the site of an experimental reef; (2) characterize habitats in terms of sediment grain size and nutrients, infaunal diversity, density, and composition, and standard environmental metrics; and (3) assess habitat use patterns of GS and teleosts around these features prior to, during, and after construction of experimental reefs. Our work at the University of Kentucky (UK) will focus on field and laboratory work associated with the second project objective listed above. This will involve multiple field excursions to collect large numbers of seafloor bottom sediment samples, and the analytical characterization of these samples for grain size and particulate organic carbon (POC) concentrations. We will be reporting these analytical results to our collaborators, will use the objectives of this research to found one or more student research projects, and will participate with our collaborators in the full development of the collective data set in terms of reporting to the funding agencies, and the dissemination of research results at appropriate venues (professional meetings, agency workshops, peer-reviewed publications, etc.). 1
StatusActive
Effective start/end date9/1/208/31/24

Funding

  • University of Southern Mississippi: $281,081.00

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