STAR Seminar: Dr. Howard Townsend- Assessing the Ecosystem Services of Oyster Restoration - Lake Harding Association

STAR Seminar: Dr. Howard Townsend- Assessing the Ecosystem Services of Oyster Restoration

STAR Seminar: Dr. Howard Townsend- Assessing the Ecosystem Services of Oyster Restoration

By Micah Moen 0 Comment August 14, 2019

>>But realistically
we see oysters as more than just oysters. You know, they actually
created ecosystems or ecosystem engineers. And so part of what we
want to do is to look at the ecosystem services that
they provide by the structure. And part of what motivates this,
and she listed all the policy. I’m just going to list
a few high points here. But both in Maryland’s
Oyster Restoration Plan and Noah’s Habitat Blueprint,
there is this call to look at restoration not just for restoring the thing
you’re trying to restore, but also the broader
ecological and economic context. So that’s why we moved
to Ecosystem Services. Okay, you probably hear the
word Ecosystem Services a lot. I think it gets confused
and confounded a bit. So we’re actually
talking about in terms of sort of the [inaudible]. Ultimately the Ecosystem
Service is something that you can then translate into
a dollar or socioeconomic value. So we won’t get into all that, because we don’t
have enough time. But there’s lots of things
that are ecologically important to part of an ecological
production function that produce an ecological
service in [inaudible]. So just so there’s
more clarity there, you got a definition we
can talk about later. So some of the Ecosystem
Services you would see with an oyster reef, well, of course they do
produce oyster meat. It gets sold in various forms. And to some extent, when
you remove that oyster, you’re removing some
nitrogen and carbon. It’s cluster carbon, I suppose. Haven’t really measured that. But there’s also the fact that
these act as habitat for a lot of fish, or at least
some refuge from prey. So there’s potential
that they’re also helping to produce other fish. And I use that term
very loosely, fish. Shellfish, blue crabs,
that sort of thing. You like my icons here, Bill? Denativication [phonetic]. In fact, right now there’s
a group of folks at ORP, Oyster Restoration
Partnership, meeting to talk about the possibility
of using oysters as a best man in practice. I think there’s a lot
more science needs to be done there, but it’s good. And then maybe down in
Virginia and definitely like in the Gulf Coast, oysters that have done the shoreline
protection they offer us for inner tidal oysters. It gets a little cool up
here in the wintertime to have much inner
tidal oysters, but a little further south. So they actually, you know,
instead of having to put in Rip Rap in bulkhead,
you know, oysters will do. So there’s been done
a lot of work done. I’m not going to read all these. But so there’s been done a
lot of work done, sort of here and there, in looking at Ecosystem Services
that oysters provide. And, you know, this would be
available online if you want to look up one of
these references. But we really want to
use this as a framework to start pulling together
some of this information. So that’s where we’re
going with this. And we talked about
this shop tank complex. So we’re focusing on doing, you
know, some studies in this area, either stuff we funded or stuff that the Chesapeake
Bay office is doing, in sort of these 3 main
tributaries we’re calling the shop tank complex. Sounds like some sort
of psychiatric disease. I’ve got shop tank complex. So we get back to that
idea of Ecosystem Services. So really what we want to do is
develop an ecological production function so we can
do some studies, quantify some relationships to develop an Ecological
Production Function that would be used to
estimate the Ecosystem Service. In this case it’s a
fin fish by a mass, and then ultimately
we’re working with some Economists at Noah. What’s the, you know, added
value of the marginal increase of the oyster, or the
fin fish that would come about as we restored the
oysters with the value to that commercially
and recreationally? So that’s the overall view. I’m going to break this down. This is the key components of what the Chesapeake
Bay office is doing, and then I’ll have a short list of some stuff we’ve
funded, experimented. So some of those ecological
studies that we do are to look at the habitat complexity. So Stephanie mentioned this,
the bottom mapping work we do. We even do some really
fine scale stuff. So you can look at the rugosity,
the bumpiness or roughness of an oyster reef and
the heights of the reefs, and that sort of
thing to think about. You know, that’s a 3 dimensional
structure of habitat. And, you know, is that
3 dimensional structure of habitat important for not
only, you know, the fin fish, but also in just increasing
oyster abundance itself. So we’ve got some
detailed studies there, that we’re working on. And I should say this
is sort of a before and after control
intervention sort of study. So we’ve done 1 year of
before in the Tred Avon. This year we’re going to
be doing the Tred Avon in the little shop tank to
do the before restoration. And then 3 years from now, when it’s all restored,
we’ll go back. We’ll probably do it
several years in a row. We want to kind of see the
ecological succession associated with this. So we’ll understand the sort
of 3 dimensional habitat, but also the water
column habitat. You know, people think
of this as water quality. We think of it as water
column habitat for these fish. So you might have an area
of reef, for example, with this great habitat for
some reef associated fish. But if the water column habitat
is not right, they’re not going to be able to get there. So we’re monitoring that. We’ve done some [inaudible]
monitoring, and we’re working with Bruce Michaels Group and
Mark Trice [assumed spelling] to put out some continuous
observing equipment to measure temperature
solenoity, those sorts of things.>>We’ve had those out there
since March 27th, I believe.>>Right. Yeah, they’ve been
doing [inaudible] do some stuff at the Tred Avon. And so, you know,
they’re going to help us with all the data and stuff. That’s a lot of data. So, you know, and then
so you have this habitat. Now we actually want to go out and sample the fish
that are out there. So we got a whole
big pod design. I think I’ve got
an example of it. It’s right there. This is just a black
sea bass [inaudible]. So there are fish that
like reefs, you know. That’s good to know, right? And we take all that
and we put it into this oyster
reef ecosystem model. This is one I built with a grad
student from Johns Hopkins, just based on a typical
Chesapeake Bay reef, just for the literature review. So if you can get estimates
of these bio masses and some of these other more transient
species that are commercially and recreationally important,
like striped bass or flounder. If you know stuff about
these lower trophic levels, the trophic transfer efficiency,
you can estimate, you know, if you increase an oyster reef which causes increases
in these things. How will that then
increase these commercially and recreationally
important fish species? So we actually submitted that. We’ve got to do some revisions
on that initial model, and then we got to
refine that model with an actual shop
tank complex model. And then that will go into
some economic analysis that we’re going to be
starting to work well. We’ve got funding for it, but it probably will be several
months before we get rolling, you know, getting coached on
some of that sort of stuff so that we can, you know,
go out and do estimates of the commercial and
recreational value of those fish and then simulating the model. If we increase the oyster
reefs, increase the fish, what’s the marginal increase
in these other benefits? So that’s what our office
is doing within Noah. [Inaudible] partners. Rob [inaudible] and Rochelle
Sikes [assumed spelling] are doing some similar
work down in Virginia. They have the benefit of not
just having to use fish traps, but they could also video. The water’s clear enough
there to help identify fish. [Inaudible] are going to
be looking at Macropinna. They’re actually looking
at [inaudible] Macropinna, and then Mark and Lisa and
Paige are also looking at fish. So they’re looking at
two different components, and then working with
Jeff [inaudible] to look at actual nitrogen [inaudible]. It’s a lot more costly and a
lot harder to get that done. Actually Mark and several
others have worked with stack and with our office to put
together some estimates. We want to keep plugging
away on that and advise that, and put that right
there with Bruce. But, you know, Bruce’s group is
doing some water column habitat, Tred Avon and Harris Creek. And then our [inaudible]
colleague doing some economic stuff. So it’s going to be a
long term sort of thing. We get into the initial results and we’ll certainly
publish things, you know, just simple things, like
looking at correlations between habitat complexity and
how many oysters are there. Will be very helpful for
informing restorations. So is it okay to just spread
a bunch of shell loosely on the ground or do we need to
kind of pile it up, you know, a foot or two, or
that sort of thing? Which is going to give
us the most benefits? So there will be several
products along the way as we go, but this is sort of our new
way of thinking of this. And I got a whole
bunch of results that I’m not going
to go through. But that’s what our
trap design looks like, and we’re running these
traps in all our control and restoration sites. Some results, but
we don’t have time. We’ll talk about that later.

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