McCoy E, Borrett SR, La Peyre MK, Peterson BJ. 2017. Estimating the impact of oyster restoration scenarios on transient fish production. Restoration Ecology. doi: 10.1111/rec.12498
Oyster reef restoration in coastal systems has recently received increased funding with an implicit desire to enhance oyster density and the ecosystem services they provide. Although oyster restoration has been proven a successful strategy to increase density and biomass of the associated transient fish, predicting and quantifying the effect of oyster restoration on transient fish communities remains a challenge. A bioenergetics model was developed to assess the impact of selected oyster reef restoration scenarios on associated transient fish species. The model was used to analyze the impact of changes in (1) oyster carrying capacity (2) oyster growth rate and (3) diet preference of transient fish on oyster reef development and associated transient fish species. Model results were within expected values and corroborate results from previous field and mesocosm studies. The model highlights the importance of a favorable oyster growth rate during early restoration years, as it can lead to increases in mean oyster biomass and biomass of transient fish species. The model also revealed that a transient fish’s diet solely dependent on oyster reef-derived prey could limit the biomass of transient fish species, emphasizing the importance of habitat connectivity in estuarine areas to enhance transient fish species biomass. Simple bioenergetics models can be developed to understand the dynamics of a system and make qualitative predictions of management and restoration scenarios.