Fresh Water Inflow and Oyster Productivity in Apalachicola Bay, FL (USA)

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Apalachicola Bay lies at the mouth of the Apalachicola River, where seasonally variable freshwater inflows and shifting winds have long been thought to contribute to the support of an unusually productive and commercially important oyster fishery. Links between the river and productivity have been shown to lie in salinity-induced reductions in oyster predators and oyster disease as well as organic supplements from an extensive floodplain. Several studies have also indicated that nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) carried by the river are important in fertilization of bay primary production. While there is concern that upstream water withdrawals may impact the fishery, the importance of riverine N to oyster diets remains unclear. We measured N and carbon (C) stable isotopes (δ15N, δ13C) in macroalgae, surface-water nitrate, and surface sediments, which showed a gradient from enriched riverine δ15N values to more depleted values in the Gulf of Mexico. In contrast, δ13C of particulate matter is depleted in the river and enriched offshore. Oyster stable isotope values throughout Apalachicola Bay are more complex, but are dominated by freshwater inputs and reflect the variability and hydrodynamics of the riverine inflows. © 2011 Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (outside the USA).

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Estuaries and Coasts