Emily Rivest, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV), such as eelgrass, could mitigate the harmful impacts of ocean acidification on Eastern oysters by reducing the acidity of waters where oysters grow. These underwater grasses take up carbon dioxide and release oxygen into coastal waters, reducing the exposure of marine organisms to increases in acidity conditions that slow or stop oyster growth and reproduction. Oysters, in turn, improve water clarity for seagrasses to thrive by filtering particles out of the water and allowing more sunlight to penetrate. This modeling project will identify the threshold of acidification beyond which the economically important Eastern oyster is negatively impacted and will evaluate the potential benefit of seagrasses in protecting oysters and the ecosystem services they provide. The modeling tool will also identify the acidification conditions in which seagrass restoration is most helpful and when the economic benefits of this restoration to Easter oyster production outweigh the costs. At the end of this project, the final model will be freely available as an online tool and will help scientists, managers and oyster growers assess the potential for both seagrass and oyster restoration.