Comparative Sampling of Nekton Associated with Living Shorelines, Natural Oyster Reefs, and Bare Ground in Georgia
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Comparative Sampling of Nekton Associated with Living Shorelines, Natural Oyster Reefs, and Bare Ground in Georgia

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  • Alternative Title:
    Final Report Submitted to The Nature Conservancy
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    Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica Gmelin, 1791), found in intertidal estuaries throughout coastal Georgia, are considered ecosystem engineers as their reef-forming nature creates one of the most productive ecosystems in the southeastern United States. Regarded as keystone species, (Jones et al. 1994; Luckenbach et al. 1999; Gutierrez et al., 2003; ASMFC 2007), oysters provide many valuable ecosystem services, including the provision of essential fish habitat (ASMFC 2007), the improvement of water quality and clarity via filtration of phytoplankton and pollutants from the water column(Nelson et al. 2004; Porter et al. 2004), and shoreline stabilization, making them an ideal species to utilize in the construction of living shorelines in coastal Georgia. Living shorelines are defined by NOAA as a method to help stabilize eroding shorelines that "utilize a variety of structural and organic materials, such as wetland plants, submerged aquatic vegetation, oyster reefs, coir fiber logs, sand fill, and stone" (NOAA 2014). There is considerable interest by The Nature Conservancy, as well as other agencies in Georgia and the southeast U.S., to identify any difference in species richness and abundance between living shorelines and natural oyster reefs. Previous research in Georgia has found over 60 species of nekton associated with natural oyster reefs and that nekton are similar along the coast, north to south, (Bliss et al. 2010 and 2011) and that nekton found over created oyster reefs does not differ from natural oyster reefs (Bliss and Rinn 2015).
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