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MarineGEO Oyster Reef Habitat Monitoring Protocol

online resource
posted on 2021-07-09, 19:22 authored by Dean Janiak, Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network, MarineGEO
"MarineGEO Oyster Reef Habitat Monitoring Protocol" provides MarineGEO’s standard survey design for sampling eastern oyster reef habitat including key measurements on reef attributes (reef area and height), reef composition, oyster density and size, rugosity, and associated biodiversity. Additionally, we provide best practices for site selection, layout, workflow, and data submission.

Oysters are filter-feeding bivalves found in nearshore brackish or marine waters that coalesce with each other as they grow, forming structurally complex intertidal or subtidal reefs. Oysters are ecosystem engineers and provide critical ecosystem services including enhanced water quality via their strong filter-feeding capabilities and protection to submerged aquatic vegetation and waterfront communities. Oyster reefs also provide important biogenic habitat for a diverse suite of marine life including vital nursery grounds for many commercially valuable species in addition to many other species.

The following MarineGEO protocols provide a standardized set of measurements for characterizing the health of oyster reefs and their associated communities. The methodology was adopted from the Oyster Habitat Restoration Monitoring and Assessment Handbook, created by a working group including agencies from NOAA, the Natural Conservancy, as well as others and using “Universal Metrics” of study for best practices. These methods are specific for eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica). Oyster reef monitoring has two main components: 1) collection of a series of measurements to characterize the size, structure, and health of a reef and 2) collection of associated fauna to monitor changes in biodiversity over space and time. In general, fieldwork for a reef can be easily completed in a single day. MarineGEO recommends that 3 separate reefs be included per partner site for annual monitoring.

We thank: Mike Beck, Matt Ferner, Ken Heck, Lisa Kellogg, Katie Macfarland, Chris Patrick, Lee Smee, and Ashley Smyth for thoughtful feedback on the initial draft of these protocols.

Core protocols below are required for MarineGEO partners:
• Sampling Event & Environmental Monitoring (
• Oyster reef area and height (every 3 years)
• Oyster reef composition
• Oyster density and size frequency
• Oyster reef associated fauna
• Oyster reef rugosity


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