Southeastern Section - 50th Annual Meeting (April 5-6, 2001)

Paper No. 0
Presentation Time: 1:00 PM-5:00 PM


NELSON, Kimberly A.1, LEONARD, Lynn A.1, ALPHIN, Troy D.2 and POSEY, Martin H.3, (1)Department of Earth Sciences/Center for Marine Science, Univ of North Carolina at Wilmington, 601 S. College Rd, Wilmington, NC 28403, (2)Center for Marine Science, Univ of North Carolina at Wilmington, 1 Marvin Moss Lane, Wilmington, NC 28409, (3)Department of Biological Sciences/Center for Marine Science, Univ of North Carolina at Wilmington, 601 S College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403,

Benthic filter feeders, such as the oyster (Crassostrea virginica), are believed to improve water quality in estuarine environments through filtration of suspended solids and nutrients. In addition, the biogenic structure of oyster reef communities may alter hydrodynamic conditions, further facilitating the removal of particulate matter and increasing water quality. Currently, several large-scale rehabilitation projects are being conducted in Maryland and Virginia and North Carolina has received over $300,000 in legislative funding for oyster restoration projects in association with water quality improvements. This study will examine the effects of a small-scale oyster restoration project on sediment loading, nutrient loading, and flow within a small tidal creek in southeastern North Carolina.

Two reefs (2 m by 1.5 m) have been established in Hewletts Creek, New Hanover County, North Carolina. Water samples are collected monthly above and below each reef on ebbing tides. These samples are used to determine concentrations of total suspended solids (TSS), ammonium, and chlorophyll a. Flow properties are also measured above, over, and below each reef with an electromagnetic current meter. Additional samples and flow measurements are taken for comparison at adjacent control sites without restored reefs.

Initial data show TSS concentrations ranging from 24 mg l-1 to 41 mg l-1 above restored reefs to 23 mg l-1 to 39 mg l-1 below restored reefs near the tidal creek mouth. At the upland sites, concentrations range from 24 mg l-1 to 42 mg l-1 above and 15 to 39 mg l-1 below the restored reefs. Prior to reef placement, the percent organic content of TSS ranged from 25% to 55% at all sites. Since reef placement in early fall, percent organic content has decreased slightly both above and below the reef. These preliminary data suggest that after three months, the oyster reef has not yet altered the sediment load significantly in this system. As the restored reef continues to grow, however, we expect to observe a decrease in downstream (below reef) turbidity and nutrient load.