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Aquaculture Environment Interactions

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AEI 15:287-306 (2023)  -  DOI:

Influence of seagrass on juvenile Pacific oyster growth in two US west coast estuaries with different environmental gradients

Brett Dumbauld*, Brooke McIntyre

US Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, OR 97365, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Ocean acidification threatens many marine organisms, including oysters. Seagrass habitat has been suggested as a potential refuge for oysters because it may ameliorate stressful carbonate chemistry and augment food availability. We conducted an in situ study to investigate whether eelgrass Zostera marina habitat affects the growth of juvenile Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas and influences local carbonate chemistry or food quantity at sites where we expected contrasting conditions in two US west coast estuaries. Juvenile oysters were out-planted in typical intertidal on-bottom (just above sediment) and off-bottom (45 cm above sediment) culture positions and in adjacent eelgrass and unvegetated habitats from June to September 2019. Water quality was measured with sondes for 24 h periods each month, and discrete water samples were collected in conjuncture. Results show that eelgrass habitat did not alter average local carbonate chemistry (pH, pCO2, Ωcalcite), but consistently reduced available food (relative chlorophyll a). Eelgrass habitat had little to no effect on the shell or tissue growth of juvenile oysters but may have influenced their energy allocation; oysters displayed a 16% higher ratio of shell to tissue growth in eelgrass compared to unvegetated habitat when cultured on-bottom. At the seascape scale, average site-level pH was negatively correlated with shell to tissue growth but not with shell growth alone. Overall, these findings suggest that juvenile oysters may display a compensatory response and allocate more energy to shell than tissue growth under stressful conditions like acidic water and/or altered food supply due to reduced immersion or eelgrass presence.

KEY WORDS: Crassostrea gigas · Juvenile · Growth · Eelgrass · Zostera marina · Estuary · Climate · Ocean acidification

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Cite this article as: Dumbauld B, McIntyre B (2023) Influence of seagrass on juvenile Pacific oyster growth in two US west coast estuaries with different environmental gradients. Aquacult Environ Interact 15:287-306.

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