The Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is a keystone species in northeast Florida estuaries, including the Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM) Reserve. However, scientists, managers and oyster harvesters are concerned about the long-term persistence and viability of local populations. In the GTM Reserve, water quality issues are causing some areas to be closed for harvesting, which could be intensifying harvesting pressure in remaining open areas. Other factors, such as predation, disease, and increased salinity, can also slow growth or kill oysters. This complicated situation recently led stakeholders and reserve staff to establish the GTM Oyster Water Quality Task Force in order to identify causes and collaboratively address the region’s oyster challenges
This project builds on this existing partnership by conducting a collaborative, scientific modeling investigation to improve oyster population assessment and management. Incorporating the input of end users and local stakeholders, the project is adapting an existing oyster population model to study the relative influence of anthropogenic and environmental factors on oyster populations and identify variables that should be monitored to assess sustainability long-term.