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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 640:79-105 (2020)  -  DOI:

Effects of resuspension of eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica biodeposits on phytoplankton community structure

Elka T. Porter1,*, Eric Robins1, Sarah Davis2, Richard Lacouture2, Jeffrey C. Cornwell3

1University of Baltimore, Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA
2Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory, Morgan State University, Saint Leonard, MD 20685, USA
3Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Cambridge, MD 21613, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic disturbances in the Chesapeake Bay (USA) have depleted eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica abundance and altered the estuary’s environment and water quality. Efforts to rehabilitate oyster populations are underway; however, the effect of oyster biodeposits on water quality and plankton community structure are not clear. In July 2017, we used 6 shear turbulence resuspension mesocosms (STURMs) to determine differences in plankton composition with and without the daily addition of oyster biodeposits to a muddy sediment bottom. STURM systems had a volume-weighted root mean square turbulent velocity of 1.08 cm s-1, energy dissipation rate of ~0.08 cm2 s-3, and bottom shear stress of ~0.36-0.51 Pa during mixing-on periods during 4 wk of tidal resuspension. Phytoplankton increased their chlorophyll a content in their cells in response to low light in tanks with biodeposits. The diatom Skeletonema costatum bloomed and had significantly longer chains in tanks without biodeposits. These tanks also had significantly lower concentrations of total suspended solids, zooplankton carbon, and nitrite +nitrate, and higher phytoplankton carbon concentrations. Results suggest that the absence of biodeposit resuspension initiates nitrogen uptake for diatom reproduction, increasing the cell densities of S. costatum. The low abundance of the zooplankton population in non-biodeposit tanks suggests an inability of zooplankton to graze on S. costatum and negative effects of S. costatum on zooplankton. A high abundance of the copepod Acartia tonsa in biodeposit tanks may have reduced S. costatum chain length. Oyster biodeposit addition and resuspension efficiently transferred phytoplankton carbon to zooplankton carbon, thus supporting the food web in the estuary.

KEY WORDS: Biodeposit · Resuspension · Phytoplankton · Zooplankton · Oyster · STURM · Mesocosm · Crassostrea virginica · Plankton · Skeletonema costatum · Acartia tonsa

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Cite this article as: Porter ET, Robins E, Davis S, Lacouture R, Cornwell JC (2020) Effects of resuspension of eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica biodeposits on phytoplankton community structure. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 640:79-105.

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