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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 264:197-212 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps264197

Restoration that targets function as opposed to structure: replacing lost bivalve production and filtration

Deborah P. French McCay1,*, Charles H. Peterson2, Joseph T. DeAlteris,3 John Catena4

1Applied Science Associates, 70 Dean Knauss Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882, USA
2Institute of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Morehead City, North Carolina 28557, USA
3University of Rhode Island, Building 50, East Farm, Kingston, Rhode Island 02881, USA
4National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Restoration Center, 1 Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930, USA

ABSTRACT: Abundant suspension-feeding bivalves have a dominant organizing role in shallow aquatic systems by filtering overlying waters, affecting biogeochemical processing, and diverting production from the water column to the benthos. In degraded aquatic systems where bivalve populations have been reduced, successful restoration of ecosystem functions may be achieved by targeting the revival of bivalve populations. The ŒNorth Cape¹ oil spill on the coast of Rhode Island (USA) provides an opportunity to demonstrate the feasibility of scaling bivalve restoration to meet quantitative goals of enhanced production. After this oil spill, mortalities of bivalves were estimated by impact assessment modeling of acute toxicity, and results were confirmed by comparisons with counts of dead and moribund animals on local beaches. Computation of lost bivalve production included future production expected from affected animals, had they lived out their expected life spans. This calculation of production forgone required a demographic model that combined age-specific mortality with individual growth. Application of this modeling approach to surf clams Spisula solidissima, the species that comprised 97% of the total loss of bivalve production from the spill, illustrates the detailed implementation of scaling restoration to match estimates of losses. We consider the factors known to limit abundance and production of surf clams and other marine bivalves (hard clams, American oysters and bay scallops) and review the advantages of hatchery stocking, transplantation, habitat restoration, and reduction of fishing pressure in selecting a reliable and efficient restoration action. Age-specific estimates of the scale of population enhancement required to restore production showed that fewer additional animals were needed when larger (older) animals were added, but at the expense of greater grow-out requirements. Relaxation of fishing was most effective for hard clams. Accurate scaling of restoration was most sensitive to mortality rate, and the most efficient restoration involving seeding of small bivalves would be accomplished using surf clams. Monitoring of the restoration option chosen to compensate for the bivalve loss following the ŒNorth Cape¹ oil spill can serve to test the underlying demographic assumptions and accuracy of the restoration scaling.

KEY WORDS: Bivalves · Loss · Limiting factors · Natural resource damage assessment · ŒNorth Cape¹ oil spill · Population modeling · Restoration

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