La Peyre, M.K., A. Humphries, S. Casas, J. La Peyre. 2014. Temporal variation in development of oyster reef functional services. Ecological Engineering 63:34-44.
Restoration ecology relies heavily on ecosystem development theories that generally assume development of fully functioning natural systems over time, but often fail to identify the time-frame required for provision of desired functions, or acknowledge different pathways of functional development. In estuaries, a decline of overall habitat quality and functioning has led to significant efforts to restore critical ecosystem services, recently through the creation and restoration of oyster reefs. Oyster reef restoration generally occurs with goals of (1) increasing water quality via filtration through sustainable oyster recruitment, (2) stabilizing shorelines, and (3) creating and enhancing critical estuarine habitat for fish and invertebrates. We restored over 260 m2 of oyster reef habitat in coastal Louisiana and followed the development and provision of these ecosystem services from 2009 through 2012. Oysters recruited to reefs immediately, with densities of oysters greater than 75 mm exceeding 80 ind m−2 after 3 years, and provision of filtration rates of 1002 ± 187 L h−1 m−2; shoreline stabilization effects of the created reefs were minimal over the three years of monitoring, with some evidence of positive shoreline stabilization during higher wind/energy events only; increased nekton abundance of resident, but not larger transient fish was immediately measurable at the reefs, however, this failed to increase through time. Our results provide critical insights into the development trajectories of ecosystem services provided by restored oyster reefs, as well as the mechanisms mediating these changes. This is critical both ecologically to understand how and where a reef thrives, and for policy and management to guide decision-making related to oyster reef restoration and the crediting and accounting of ecosystem services.