ABSI Research Update January 2022

The ABSI core research team is halfway through another season of subtidal oyster sampling (tonging). The data collected will contribute to understanding of wild oyster presence/absence, density, and size class across Apalachicola Bay. During sampling visits, opportunistic sampling is also being done to collect data on spatiotemporal variability in suspended sediments and oyster predator abundance across the Bay.

The team is also conducting analysis of intertidal oyster data in preparation for a manuscript that will examine differences in oyster density, size, reproductive condition, and disease prevalence across the entire Apalachicola Bay System.

The newest member of ABSI’s research team, Dr. Tara Stewart Merrill, arrived in the Florida panhandle in January. Tara's research will address questions about the importance of disease as a stressor for oysters, the role of parasites in Apalachicola Bay System food webs, and how pathogens of people and wildlife move from terrestrial habitats into nearshore marine habitats. This research can help identify strategies to reduce pathogen spread in Apalachicola Bay and elsewhere.

Dr. Josh Breithaupt’s lab has recently completed an investigation of how the replacement of native salt marsh communities by mangroves on the region’s barriers islands is altering soil carbon and nitrogen storage. This work will be important for evaluating the role of wetlands as sinks or sources of organic matter, an important component of the Apalachicola Bay food web that oyster populations depend on. The manuscript is currently undergoing peer review with the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change.

Dr. Breithaupt’s lab has also recently started investigating the rate of oyster shell dissolution in a variety of substrate types from throughout the region. This research is particularly focused on the effects of sediment organic matter content on porewater pH, and will be informative for evaluating the durability and fate of subtidal and intertidal oyster shell throughout the region.​