Modeling oyster populations: V. Declining phytoplankton stocks and the population dynamics of American oyster (Crassostrea virginica) populations




Powell EN; Klinck JM; Hofmann EE; Wilson-Ormond EA; Ellis MS

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Phytoplankton standing stocks have shown a steady decline in Galveston Bay, Texas over the last 20 years. Phytoplankton provides the primary food resource for oyster populations in Galveston Bay. We used a time-dependent population dynamics model of oyster populations to examine the impact of a decline in phytoplankton stocks on oyster populations. Simulations were run with two different types of mortality: winter mortality, assuming that the oyster fishery is the primary source of mortality; and summer mortality, assuming that predators and disease are the primary source of mortality. All simulations showed the same qualitative trends. Market-size adults disappear from the population in about 4 years, with an approximate 15% decline in food supply. Submarket-size adults maintained an increasing or steady population density for 10-14 years, after which the populations crashed to near extinction in 2-4 years. The proximate cause was a cessation in reproductive activity when food supply ceased to be sufficient to generate a fall spawn, an approximate 60% drop in food from cur-rent levels in Galveston Bay. The temporal sequence of mortality affected the outcome very little. The simulations suggest that populations decline rapidly in response to declining food supplies because a minimum food level is required to support a market-size population and a minimal reproductive activity. The simulations suggest that a reduction in market-size individuals is the primary early-warning signal of decreased food supply within the affected population and that this warning signal might easily be mistaken for overfishing. Proper management requires the monitoring of food supply and the use of a mathematical model to assess the importance of observed declines in population abundance. Unfortunately, once the fishery is affected, little time may remain before the termination of spawning and population extinction




algae [Algae]; invertebrate [Invertebrata]; Crassostrea virginica [Pelecypoda];Algae: Algae,Microorganisms,Nonvascular Plants,Plants; Invertebrata: Animals,Invertebrates; Pelecypoda: Animals,Invertebrates,Mollusks;Climatology: Environmental Sciences; Conservation; Ecology: Environmental Sciences; Marine Ecology: Ecology,Environmental Sciences; Mathematical Biology: Computational Biology; Models and Simulations: Computational Biology; Nutrition; Physiology; Reprodu;FOOD SUPPLY; MORTALITY; OYSTER FISHERY; REPRODUCTION; SEASONALITY; SHELLFISH;[00512] General biology - Conservation and resource management;[04500] Mathematical biology and statistical methods;[07504] Ecology: environmental biology - Bioclimatology and biometeorology;[07506] Ecology: environmental biology - Plant;[07512] Ecology: environmental biology - Oceanography;[07516] Ecology: environmental biology - Wildlife management: aquatic;[10515] Biophysics - Biocybernetics;[12510] Pathology - Necrosis;[13000] Algae;[13000] Algae,Plantae [34000] Invertebrata,Animalia [61500] Pelecypoda,Mollusca,Invertebrata,Animalia;[13202] Nutrition - General studies,nutritional status and methods;[16504] Reproductive system - Physiology and biochemistry;[34000] Invertebrata;[61500] Pelecypoda;[64026] Invertebrata: comparative,experimental morphology,physiology and pathology - Mollusca;