Relationship of biological communities to habitat structure on the largest remnant flat oyster reef (Ostrea angasi) in Australia
Crawford, C and Edgar, G and Gillies, CL and Heller-Wagner, G, Relationship of biological communities to habitat structure on the largest remnant flat oyster reef (Ostrea angasi) in Australia, Marine and Freshwater Research, 71, (8) pp. 972-983. ISSN 1323-1650 (2019) [Refereed Article]
Oyster reef restoration is a growing field in Australia, yet formal descriptions of associated biological communities for reefs created by native flat oysters (Ostrea angasi) do not currently exist. Native flat oysters once formed extensive and complex three-dimensional habitats in bays and estuaries across southern Australia until indiscriminate fishing, sedimentation and disease led to their near disappearance. To determine the diversity and abundance on naturally occurring oyster reefs, we sampled four sites on the last known naturally occurring oyster reef ecosystem, which resides in north-eastern Tasmania, and compared them to the surrounding soft sediment regions. Assemblages were related to environmental variables to determine whether consistent patterns were present. Oyster reef sites contained three times the faunal abundance of the surrounding soft sediment regions. Abundance among echinoderms, arthropods, molluscs and fish was much elevated, whereas annelids showed similar levels of abundance but differed in terms of species composition. These results show that oyster reefs do support abundant and diverse assemblages, emphasising the probable loss of community-level biodiversity associated with their historical decline around southern Australia.