clams

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Scientists from Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) have released a paper presenting the culmination of a decade of science. Frontiers of marine scienceThis, along with the expansion of seagrass meadows and the demise of harmful brown tides, explains the new restoration approaches used in Shinnecock Bay. With this result, Shinnecok Bay can be restored to her 20th-century shellfishing glory and serve as a shining example of the process of restoring other estuaries in the country and around the world.

Long Island clams were once the largest fishery in New York State history. In the 1970s, two-thirds of the clams eaten in the United States came from Long Island. Since that time, the fishery has collapsed by more than 99%, and despite over 40 years of recovery efforts, the fishery has never responded.

Ten years ago, Shinnecok Bay was a seemingly irreparable mouth. By 2011, the hard shell catch, the filter-fed bivalve that historically dominated the New York estuary, had collapsed. As keystone organisms, much of the seagrass throughout this system was lost, and this loss had a trickle-down effect across the estuary, as noxious and violent brown tides were occurring each year. The state of the system seemed particularly dire.

“99.5%. The number is sometimes used as an exaggeration, but it’s how much clam landings in Shinnecock Bay declined from the 1970s to 2011.” D., and lead author of the study. “These bivalves have demonstrated that their ability to filter their feed removes algae, improves water clarity, and has downstream impacts on habitats like seagrass meadows that need clear water to thrive.” They are known as ecosystem engineers because they are able to We knew that it was.

The Stony Brook scientists also knew the task of restoring the clams would not be easy, as previous efforts over 40 years had met with little success. A new approach, based on science and tailored to the unique nature of Shinnecock Bay, was needed.

road to recovery

In collaboration with fellow marine science professor Brad Peterson, Gobbler embarked on a study of the entire Synnecock Bay ecosystem in 2004 to identify the factors that limit clam and seagrass populations and contribute to water quality degradation. understood. What they found was that the recruitment of clams was limited, and that adults were so rare that the probability of successful breeding of these broadcast-spawning individuals was very low. In part, it led to a major approach to what became the core effort of the Synnecock Bay Restoration Program. To create clam spawning sanctuaries, areas where adult clams can maximize their fertility and cycle their spawning. across the bay.

To optimize the creation of spawning reserves, scientists needed three key factors: It is financial support to implement the plan, cooperation from local officials and Bayman, and careful science to identify ideal locations for reserves and monitor progress. By chance, all these components came together.

Nine years of support for this project were generously provided primarily by the Laurie Landau Foundation, with additional support from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. The Town of Southampton Board has worked with scientists from Stony Brook University and the Southampton Town Baymen Association to identify areas that will be “no fishing” zones where clam harvesting is prohibited. Finally, the scientists identified areas that maximized the ability of adult clams to reproduce and retain their spawned offspring in the bay.

“The spawner reserves corresponded to the Goldilocks zone. They were far enough away from ocean inlets that spawning or larvae were not washed into the Atlantic Ocean, but adult clams died due to lack of water.” We weren’t far from clean seawater, quality,” said Professor Gobler. “The ability to use science to identify ideal locations for finding spawning sanctuaries has been key to the program’s success.”

turn the tide

Successful restoration did not happen overnight. Over a five-year period (2012-2017), over 3 million adult clams were planted in the Shinnecock Bay spawning sanctuary. Given that it takes several years for clams to grow to harvestable size, the population was recovering. This will take some time. However, over time, the density of hard mussels across Synnecock Bay increased, leading to an increase in yields. In both cases, these increases were primarily small clams, the exact size expected from spawning reserves.

Scientists also developed a new DNA-based method for tracking clam spawning and demonstrated that clams gradually migrated from the western part of the bay to the eastern half of the bay, increasing disproportionately in density. did. The increase in clam density and clam yield was not fully predicted by scientists.

“The results of this restoration are a win-win for the environment and the economy,” said Mike Dole, co-author and associate director of Shellfish Restoration and Aquaculture within SoMAS. “Not only has the health of the ecosystem been restored, but the once-thriving clam fishery has been revived, benefiting Bayman’s livelihoods and helping restore an important aspect of Long Island’s maritime history. ”

Brown tides in New York contributed to the collapse of bivalve populations and the loss of seagrass pastures, according to Professor Gobbler and co-authors, and were occurring more frequently and violently in Synnecock Bay than anywhere else in the world. However, as the clams were planted and the clam population increased, the brown tide dwindled and disappeared from Synnecoq Bay, and although it was an annual occurrence in the nearby Great South Bay, the system remained at 6. It has been freed from tragedy for years in a row. Prior to his first appearance in 1985, he had not gone without brown tide for six years at Shinnecock Bay.

“The successful restoration of Shinnecok Bay has recently brought the estuary to the global spotlight,” says co-author Dr. Ellen Pikic, SoMAS Endowed Professor of Marine Conservation Science. said.

In June, the bay was designated a Hope Spot by the international organization Mission Blue.

“This honor shows that Synnecoc Bay is a beacon of hope not just for Long Island, but for the region around the world,” adds Pikicic. “We have demonstrated that through sustained, science-based research, remediation and monitoring, past damage can be undone. This is why similar programs elsewhere have shown positive results. It is an optimistic reason that it will bring

The research team stresses that there is hope that the success of Shinnecock Bay is a model that will be replicated on Long Island and beyond. Established a shellfish restoration program and established clam spawning sanctuaries at four other locations on Long Island.


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For more information:
Christopher J. Gobler et al., Rebuilding Collapsed Bivalve Populations, Restoring Seagrass Meadows, and Eradicating Noxious Algal Blossoms in Temperate Lagoons Using Spawner Reserves, Frontiers of marine science (2022). DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2022.911731

Courtesy of Stony Brook University

Quote: Scientists Restore Collapsed Clam Populations and Water Quality in Shinnecok Bay (30 Aug 2022) https://phys.org/news/2022-08-scientists-recover-collapsed-clam Retrieved 30 Aug 2022 from -population.html

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