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Oyster Aquaculture Related Ecosystem Services in the Choptank River Habitat Focus Area (HFA)

This project began in June 2016 and was completed in November 2016

Eutrophication—the overabundance of nutrients in a body of water—threatens the normal function and benefits provided by coastal ecosystems. Attempts to reverse eutrophication have focused on reducing land-based sources of nutrients. However, in-the-water removal of nutrients through filtration and growth of filter feeders such as shellfish (e.g., oysters) can also help. We are estimating the value of ecosystem services maintained or enhanced in the Choptank River HFA via oyster aquaculture.

Why We Care
Water quality degradation reduces habitat for commercial and recreational fisheries. This project will support development of Chesapeake Bay nutrient water quality trading programs and water quality management programs, and will provide an approach for broader application nationally. Additionally, expansion of shellfish aquaculture could stimulate seafood production and create jobs.

What We Did
We will use the Assessment of Estuarine Trophic Status (ASSETS) model to help determine the eutrophication status of the waterbody and the Farm Aquaculture Resource Management (FARM) model to help determine the amount of nitrogen removed, the potential economic benefit of the water cleaning service provided by the shellfish, and the credit potential for trading nitrogen in a nutrient trading program. The FARM model also determines changes in chlorophyll and dissolved oxygen related to aquaculture that can be used to evaluate the impact of the aquaculture farm on local eutrophication status.

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