Management and restoration of wild oyster populations with the ecosystem services they provide require detailed understanding of oyster population dynamics, including temporally and spatially varying growth. Much of the existing literature documenting growth rates for eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) reports growth for large, protected, and/or hatchery-spawned oysters. By following growth of wild oysters set on planted clamshells in Delaware Bay, we document early growth (within the first year) of 21 wild oyster cohorts settling over 8 years and assess the importance of interannual variability in temperature and salinity. In general, oysters follow a linear growth trajectory in the first year of life, interspersed by periods of little to no growth in the colder months. Wild oysters settling in the Delaware Bay mid-salinity region reach a size between 27 and 33 mm in their first year and tend to reach greater shell heights at 1 year of age in higher salinity years and at temperatures averaging 23 °C. Multi-year, population-level estimates of wild growth such as these are important for understanding changes in restored and managed oyster populations, and resulting ecosystem services, under naturally variable conditions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Crassostrea virginica
- Early life history
- Post-metamorphic growth