Title: Oyster Reef Restoration Suitability Index for the Georgia Coast with Focus on Red Drum Habitat Suitability
Presenters: Cameron C. Atkinson and Dillon K. Metz
Faculty Support: James Deemy, Ph.D.
Abstract: The eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) and red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) are iconic species along the Georgia coast. Oyster reef restoration and management of S. ocellatus stocks have led to the bolstering of both species’ populations following a history of overharvesting. While oyster reef restoration has seen success, we propose that prioritizing sites for restoration could increase success rates and produce targeted impacts on S. ocellatus stocks. Our objectives were to create a restoration suitability index for the Georgia coast by: 1) identifying critical physicochemical parameters and optimal ranges for C. virginica and S. ocellatus; 2) create GIS indices that map habitat quality from low to high for both species; 3) combine the results of both indices to produce an overall restoration suitability index; and 4) modify this index by excluding areas containing potential stressors to both species. We found there to be distinct areas of high and low restoration suitability throughout the Georgia coast.