Submarine groundwater discharge interacts with creek geomorphology to affect eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica growth rates in a coastal Georgia creek
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Submarine groundwater discharge interacts with creek geomorphology to affect eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica growth rates in a coastal Georgia creek

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    Eastern oysters, Crassostrea virginica, are commercially important coastal species that provide many ecosystem services for coastal communities. Unfortunately, 85% of oyster reefs have been lost globally, prompting investments in restoration efforts to rebuild populations. Managers often consider several well-studied environmental and water quality parameters when making restoration site decisions. However, recent research suggests that submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) may play a role in driving the distribution of oysters in some estuaries. Specifically, SGD may result in localized areas of low dissolved oxygen and low pH that could inhibit oyster recruitment and survival. However, SGD may interact with other potential oyster stressors, including creek geomorphology. On point bars, sediment accumulation could alter growth rates of oysters and physiology, and it is possible that the two factors, SGD and creek geomorphology, could interact to impact oyster growth. We conducted a field experiment to examine the effects of SGD and creek geomorphology on oyster growth rates in a marsh-lined tidal creek in Georgia, USA. High and low SGD sites were paired within point bars and cut banks. Oysters were deployed in cages for 72 days and growth rates were determined. We found a significant interaction between SGD and creek geomorphology on oyster growth rates. Oysters grew at significantly faster rates at locations on accretionary point bars regardless of SGD flux, whereas, on erosional cut banks, high SGD flux significantly reduced oyster growth rate relative to low SGD flux. It appears that SGD may negatively influence oyster growth at specific creek locations, likely due to the presence of other stressors. Therefore, it is important to consider potential interacting and confounding stressors when managing oyster populations. As SGD is still a relatively understudied potential stressor for oysters, it is critical to continue to examine how groundwater might influence oysters in other locations and in combination with other stressors. Regardless, this study provides further evidence that SGD should be considered in future management efforts.
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    PeerJ, 11, e15837
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    CC BY
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