Publications

A verified habitat suitability model for the intertidal rock oyster, Saccostrea cucullata

Chowdhury, Mohammed Shah Nawaz; Wijsman, J.W.M.; Hossain, M.S.; Ysebaert, T.; Smaal, A.C.

Summary

There is growing interest to restore oyster populations and develop oyster reefs for their role in ecosystem health and delivery of ecosystem services. Successful and sustainable oyster restoration efforts largely depend on the availability and selection of suitable sites that can support long-term growth and survival of oysters. Hence, in the present study a habitat suitability index (HSI) model was developed for the intertidal rock oyster (Saccostrea cucullata), with special attention: (1) to the role of the monsoon in the suitability of oyster habitats, and (2) to identify potential suitable sites along the south-eastern Bangladesh coast. Seven habitat factors were used as input variables for the HSI model: (1) water temperature; (2) salinity; (3) dissolved oxygen; (4) particulate inorganic matter (PIM); (5) pH; (6) Chlorophyll-a; and (7) water flow velocity. Seven field surveys were conducted at 80 locations to collect geospatial environmental data, which were then used to determine HSI scores using habitat suitability functions. The model results showed that the areas suitable (HSI >0.50) for oyster settlement and growth were characterized by relatively high salinities, Chlorophyll-a, dissolved oxygen and pH values. In contrast, freshwater dominated estuaries and nearby coastal areas with high suspended sediment were found less suitable (HSI <0.50) for oysters. HSI model results were validated with observed oyster distribution data. There was strong correlation between the HSI calculated by the model and observed oyster densities (r = 0.87; n = 53), shell height (r = 0.95; n = 53) and their condition index (r = 0.98; n = 53). The good correspondence with field data enhances the applicability of the HSI model as a quantitative tool for evaluating the quality of a site for oyster restoration and culture.