Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) aquaculture and diversity of associated species

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Oysters: Biology, Consumption and Ecological Importance. Marine Biology. Nova Science Publishers, Incorporated, Hauppauge, NY

Publication Date


Date Added



The eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, is a keystone species with the welldocumented ability to provide ecological services, environmental enrichment, and commercial value. Oyster reefs provide valuable habitat for many ecologically and economically important species, as well as stabilizing benthic and intertidal habitats. Oysters drive benthic-pelagic coupling as they filter suspended particles from the water and their deposits enrich benthic communities and increase carbon sequestration. Their bioactivity and structure creation leads to a greater abundance and diversity of other aquatic species. A dramatic decline in the eastern oyster populations of the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast of the United States has been well documented since the late 1800s. This decline is often attributed to anthropogenic actions including overharvesting, habitat degradation, and reduction in water quality. Everincreasing land use and development have impacted the eastern oyster throughout their range. Dermo and MSX diseases caused massive mortality in the past and continue to suppress recovery of eastern oyster populations. Diminished oyster abundances and the critical ecosystem services they provide may lead to a negative cascading effect on the entire estuarine environment. The culture of the eastern oyster in containment gear has become a valuable tool not only of commercial aquaculture but also for restoration programs throughout many states along the East Coast of the United States. Oysters grown in aquaculture gear provide many of the same ecological services as natural or restored reefs. The cultured oysters and gear may also provide important habitat for fish, mobile crustaceans, and a variety of other species. A number of studies have demonstrated a positive correlation between oyster aquaculture and the presence of infaunal and epifaunal communities, including populations of ecologically and economically important fauna. In response to the drastic decline in oyster populations, conservation organizations in the coastal eastern states have developed community culturing programs, commonly referred to as “oyster gardening”, to help mitigate the loss of oyster populations. Oyster gardening instills in the community a strong sense of environmental stewardship while locally providing the ecological services of the oyster stocks. As enhancement and restoration of the eastern oyster move forward, it is important to understand the overall contributions and impacts that oyster aquaculture may impart in the surrounding environment. As wild oyster stocks continue to dwindle, research focusing on the ecological effects of commercial oyster aquaculture is being carried out with greater urgency.




Environmental Sciences