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Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Shellfish Research








One of the primary obstacles to understanding why some oyster populations are successful and others are not is the complex interaction of environmental variables with oyster physiology and with such population variables as the rates of recruitment and juvenile mortality. A numerical model is useful in investigating how population structure originates out of this complexity. We have monitored a suite of environmental conditions over an environmental gradient to document the importance of short time-scale variations in such variables as food supply, turbidity, and salinity. Then, using a coupled oyster disease population dynamics model, we examine the need for short rime-scale monitoring. We evaluate the usefulness of several measures of food supply by comparing field observations and model simulations. Finally, we evaluate the ability of a model to reproduce field observations that derive from a complex interplay of environmental variables and address the problem of the time-history of populations. Our results stress the need to evaluate the complex interactions of environmental variables with a numerical model and, conversely, the need to evaluate the success of modeling against field observations of the results of complex processes. Model simulations of oyster populations only approached field observations when the environmental variables were measured weekly, rather than monthly. Oyster food supply was estimated from measures of total particulate organic matter, phytoplankton biomass estimated from chlorophyll a, and total labile organic matter estimated from a regression between chlorophyll a and total labile carbohydrate, lipid, and protein. Only the third measure provided simulations comparable to field observations. Model simulations also only approached field observations when a multiyear time series was used. The simulations show that the most recent year exerts the strongest influence on oyster population attributes, but that the longer time-history modulates the effect. The results emphasize that year-to-pear changes in environment contribute substantially to observed population attributes and that multiyear environmental time series are important in describing the time-history of relatively long-lived species.

Original Publication Citation

Soniat, T.M., Powell, E.N., Hofmann, E.E., & Klinck, J.M. (1998). Understanding the success and failure of oyster populations: The importance of sampled variables and sample timing. Journal of Shellfish Research, 17(4), 1149-1165.