Integrated models for quantifying oyster ecosystem services and guiding restoration in Chesapeake Bay

Grant awarded to:
Elizabeth North (UMCES)
Raleigh Hood (UMCES)

Donald Boesch (UMCES)
Dennis King (UMCES)
Mark Luckenbach (VIMS)
Roger Newell (UMCES)
Ken Paynter (UMCES/UMCP)
Jiangtao Xu (UMCES)

Team includes:
Rebecca Holyoke (UMCES)
Thomas Maslin (UMCES)

Funded by:
Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment

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research pages

Our objective was to quantitatively assess how oysters influence the Chesapeake ecosystem and help determine the most effective strategies for restoring their benefits. We ran computer simulations to provide realistic bounds on what the benefits of oyster filtration was, is now, and could be. In addition, we developed a prototype, integrated modeling framework for strategic and tactical use in oyster restoration.


Research results indicate that oysters have the greatest filtration capacity in tributaries. To maximize the beneficial effects of oyster filtration, we suggest that oyster restoration projects with objective of enhancing water quality should focus on tributaries and be designed using quantitative approaches.

We created a proof-of-concept oyster restoration decision-support tool that links the ecosystem and the human-use benefits of oysters in an integrated framework. This Oyster Restoration Optimization model (ORO) incorporates predictions from three-dimensional water quality (NPDZ with oyster filtration) and larval transport models; calculates size- and salinity-dependent growth, mortality, and fecundity of oysters; and includes economic costs of restoration efforts. Model results indicate that restoration of oysters in different regions of the Chesapeake Bay would maximize different suites of benefits due to interactions between the physical characteristics of a system and non-linear biological processes. Although preliminary, the ORO model demonstrates that our understanding of circulation patterns, single-species population dynamics and their interactions with the ecosystem can be integrated into one quantitative framework that optimizes funding resources and provides explicit advice along with testable predictions.


North, E. W., D. M. King, J. Xu, R. R. Hood, R. I. E. Newell, K. T. Paynter, M. L. Kellogg, M. K. Liddel, D. F. Boesch. 2007. An ecosystem approach for oyster restoration and management. ICES CM R:13. (.pdf)

E. W. North, J. Xu, R. R. Hood, R. I. E. Newell, D. F. Boesch, M. W. Luckenbach, K. T. Paynter. in prep. Quantifying the ability of eastern oysters to filter the waters of Chesapeake Bay.

North, E. W., D. M. King, J. Xu, R. R. Hood, R. I. E. Newell, K. T. Paynter, M. L. Kellogg, M. K. Liddel, D. F. Boesch. in prep. Linking optimization and ecological models in a decision support tool for oyster restoration and management.