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Modeling the dispersal of eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) larvae in Delaware Bay

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The interactions of circulation and growth processes in determining the horizontal distribution of eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) larvae in the Delaware Bay estuary were investigated with a coupled circulation-individual-based larvae model that used environmental conditions from the spawning seasons (mid-June to mid-September) of 1984, 1985, 1986, 2000, and 2001. Particles, representing oyster larvae, were released at five-day intervals from areas in Delaware Bay that correspond to natural oyster reefs. The simulated larval development time was used to estimate potential larval success, determined by the percent of larvae that successfully reached settlement size (330 μm) within the planktonic larval duration of 30 days. Success rates for simulated larvae released in the upper estuary were less than half of those released in the lower estuary because of the reduction in growth rate from exposure to low salinity. Simulated larval success rates were further reduced during periods of increased river discharge, which produced low salinity conditions. The simulated transport patterns showed a down-estuary drift of oyster larvae during the spawning season, which is consistent with the observed reduction in settlement and recruitment rates in the upper estuary. The simulated transport pathways patterns showed that larvae originating in the middle and lower regions of the estuary had low rates of dispersion and high rates of self-settlement. Larvae released in the upper reaches of the estuary had limited contributions to the Delaware Bay oyster population, in part because of the lower overall simulated larval success in the low salinity regions. The simulated transport patterns suggested that the upper bay exports rather than receives larvae, which has implications for the establishment of genetic traits.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-03-01

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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