Improving management support tools for reintroducing bivalve species (Eastern oyster [Crassostrea virginica Gmelin]) in urban estuaries

Beth Ravit, Keith Cooper, Brian Buckley, Meredith Comi, Elizabeth Mccandlish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Successful reintroduction of "ecologically extinct" bivalve species into anthropogenically impaired urban estuaries is problematic when employing existing management tools used in estuaries where bivalves are present (GIS-based restoration models, expanding existing shellfish beds, placement of shell substrate, physical oceanographic parameters). A significant management challenge is appropriate site selection. We are proposing the inclusion of a biological parameter (evaluation of tissue histopathology) in an inexpensive and rapid site selection model to inform management decision making and identify sites with the greatest potential for reintroduction success. Use of biological biomarkers is not a new concept, but it is important that they be included in a multitiered management approach to bivalve reintroduction. This Case Study tested adult Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea virginica Gmelin) from locations that supported comparable short-term survival rates by evaluating growth and tissue health and/or disease. Biomarkers indicated oyster tissues at one site were normal, the female:male sex ratio was 50:50, and female oysters were in spawning condition. Conversely, oyster tissues at the second site exhibited multiple abnormalities, samples were 100% male, and the incidence of disease was high. Using the biomarker tool, we evaluated 4 additional sites where oysters exhibited short-term (1 year) survival. At 2 locations, we observed chronic health impacts that would preclude reintroduction, including samples from one site where a wild population was surviving. We also analyzed tissue and shell heavy metal contents. Soft tissue metal concentrations in Meadowlands samples were at the high range of scientific literature values, averaging 1.1% of total body weight, whereas tissue metal concentrations at the Keyport site were within acceptable ranges. Although initial survival and growth rates at both locations were comparable, site-specific urban stressors reduced oyster fitness at 1 of the 2 locations. We are proposing an Estuarine Reintroduction Site Selection Model, which includes a biological in situ parameter, to increase the probability of successfully managing a sustainable oyster reintroduction before commencing expensive large-scale restoration activities. Key Points: Existing physiochemical bivalve restoration management tools are inadequate in urban estuaries where original native populations are "ecologically extinct." Addition of an in situ biological evaluation parameter can aide management decision making when selecting potentially successful bivalve reintroduction sites in urban estuaries. The Estuarine Reintroduction Site Selection Model, which includes an in situ biological evaluation parameter, can be used to rank reintroduction site suitability. Use of the Estuarine Reintroduction Site Selection Model can reduce costs associated with inappropriate bivalve reintroduction site selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-565
Number of pages11
JournalIntegrated environmental assessment and management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science(all)


  • Crassostrea virginica
  • Eastern Oyster
  • Estuarine Reintroduction Site Selection Model
  • Histopathology
  • Oyster restoration
  • Species reintroduction
  • Urban estuary


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