Developing a Habitat Suitability Model for Oyster Restoration in St. Louis Bay

Author(s): Adenihun, J.; Linhoss, A.; Camacho, R.

Oyster formations in the Northern Gulf of Mexico are declining rapidly due to over-harvesting, pollution, and changes in hydrology. Oysters depend on a number of environmental factors including water depth, the availability of hard substrate, salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and PH. Oyster reefs provide important ecosystem services including fish habitat, water filtration, storm protection, sequestering carbon, providing food security, forming an economic industry, and as a cultural symbol. Oyster reef restoration can add value to the U.S economy with a sack of oysters fetching up to $40 at market. The objective of this research is to use a hydrodynamic model coupled with a water quality model to simulate conditions that are important for oyster reefs along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. We will use the existing Environmental Fluid Dynamics Code (EFDC) and Water Quality Analysis Simulation (WASP) models that have been developed for Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. EFDC simulates water quality parameters that are required to run the WASP model, such as velocity, flow rate, temperature, diffusion, dispersion, and salinity. Meanwhile, WASP model generates parameters that are important for the growth of oyster reefs in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, such as dissolved oxygen, phosphorus, nitrate, nitrite, phosphorus, and total suspended solids. We will develop a habitat suitability model for oysters based on the exiting mapped locations of oyster reefs along with environmental parameters that are important for oyster growth and survival.

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