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2012-2014 Research Projects: The Coastal and Ocean Landscape

Project: Consequences of Altered Temperature Regimes on the Reproduction, Survival, Growth and Interactions of Two Key Estuarine Fauna

Principal Investigator

Juliana Harding, Coastal Carolina University

Project Number

R/CP-19

Research Description

Oyster reefs are among the most important habitats in South Carolina estuaries. But long-term water temperature data from North Inlet estuary indicate an increase (0.9 C) from 1979-2010 and future increases predicted due to climate change. Increased temperatures may alter habitat use patterns, seasonal reproductive timing, and ecological interactions between species. Oysters and gobies are representative of lower estuarine trophic levels. Changes in larval interactions between these keystone species could affect the population dynamics and persistence of oysters and recreationally valuable finfish. Integrating information from more than 30 years of measurements and the proposed process-oriented experiments will provide new insights in the patterns, directions, rates, and mechanisms of changes to these populations and habitats.

The objectives are to (1) evaluate ecological effects of increased winter water temperatures on estuarine and tidal creek habitats using oysters and gobies as indicator species, (2) quantify effects of increased water temperature on adult reproduction, larval biology, and larval oyster-larval goby interactions using a combination of field, culture, and experimental methods, and (3) synthesize the resulting data with existing historical datasets and elucidate mechanism(s) for recently observed phonological trends in South Carolina estuary and tidal nursery habitats.

Contact for Questions

Juliana Harding (jharding@coastal.edu)