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Thesis Defense: Owen Mulvey-McFerron
March 27, 2020 @ 10:00 am - 11:00 am
The Master’s Thesis Defense of Owen Mulvey-McFerron, presented by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Marine Sciences and the Institute of Marine Sciences. This event will be held on Friday, March 27th at 10:00 am. The defense will be online only and streamed live online via Zoom (Use Zoom Meeting ID: 252 726 6841).
Title: Effects of landscape-scale oyster-reef restoration on nekton communities in a temperate estuary
Abstract: Habitat restoration of globally degraded biogenic habitats is a common practice to recover lost biodiversity and ecosystem services. Oyster reefs are considered essential fish habitat, providing wide varieties of species space to feed, grow, and reproduce. Yet oyster reefs are globally imperiled, motivating broad interest in novel, effective restoration approaches. Therefore, I examined fish community response to construction of six oyster-reef complexes in a section of a North Carolina estuary with no extant natural oyster reefs. Each reef complex consisted of 180 patch reefs, providing a unique opportunity to study fish habitat use over a landscape scale. I utilized nets and traps as well as a dual frequency fish identification sonar (DIDSON) to assess nekton communities at reef and control sites. Higher catch rates of nekton at reef sites, relative to controls, was noted across gear types, although magnitude of enhancement varied by gear. DIDSON footage revealed >300% more nekton at reef sites than controls, while nets and trap data showed only a ~5% reef enhancement. Several species including pinfish, silver perch, blue crab, mullet, and pigfish showed greatest enhancement at reef sites, highlighting that restoration benefits vary across species. Restoring oyster reefs with a landscape-scale patch reef approach is an effective way to maximize the ecosystem services available to a wide variety of species.