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Aquaculture Environment Interactions

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AEI 14:295-307 (2022)  -  DOI:

Pacific oysters are a sink and a potential source of the eelgrass pathogen, Labyrinthula zosterae

M. Victoria Agnew1, Maya L. Groner2,3, Morgan E. Eisenlord4, Carolyn S. Friedman5, Colleen A. Burge1,6,7,*

1Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 701 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21202, USA
2Prince William Sound Science Center, 300 Breakwater Rd, PO Box 705, Cordova, AK 99574, USA
3Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, East Boothbay, ME 04544, USA
4Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, E145 Corson Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853 USA
5School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Box 355020, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
6Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of Maryland Baltimore, Baltimore, MD 21202, USA
7Present address: California Department of Fish and Wildlife, UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, 2099 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay, CA 94923, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Oyster aquaculture and seagrasses often co-occur and are each vital to the ecological and economic value of coastal ecosystems. Global declines in seagrasses, including Zostera marina, have recently been observed in association with multiple factors, including infection with diseases such as seagrass wasting disease (SWD), caused by the protist Labyrinthula zosterae. Protection of seagrasses has led to restrictions on oyster aquaculture due to perceived negative impacts on seagrass beds; however, positive impacts may also occur. An important aquaculture species, the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas, can filter L. zosterae from the water, potentially reducing pathogen transmission, although oysters may vector infection if they accumulate and release live L. zosterae into the water. We investigated whether oyster presence decreases lesion severity and infection intensity in eelgrass, or acts as a vector of L. zosterae, via laboratory and field experiments. In the laboratory, oysters and eelgrass were exposed to L. zosterae for 24 h and kept at 11°C or 18°C for 13 d. In the field, eelgrass ramets were deployed with and without oysters for 28 d adjacent to eelgrass known to have SWD. In the laboratory experiment, the presence of oysters significantly decreased lesion severity and infection intensity, but oysters previously exposed to L. zosterae did transmit the pathogen to naïve eelgrass. Temperature did not affect oyster ability to mitigate SWD; however, increased temperature significantly increased lesion severity. Oysters had no effect on SWD in the field. Further research is needed regarding the potential for oysters to vector L. zosterae and to quantify when oysters reduce SWD in the field.

KEY WORDS: Eelgrass · Labyrinthula zosterae · Oyster · Temperature · Transmission · Wasting disease

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Cite this article as: Agnew MV, Groner ML, Eisenlord ME, Friedman CS, Burge CA (2022) Pacific oysters are a sink and a potential source of the eelgrass pathogen, Labyrinthula zosterae. Aquacult Environ Interact 14:295-307.

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