2019 journal article
Integrating ecosystem services considerations within a GIS-based habitat suitability index for oyster restoration
PLOS ONE, 14(1).
Geospatial habitat suitability index (HSI) models have emerged as powerful tools that integrate pertinent spatial information to guide habitat restoration efforts, but have rarely accounted for spatial variation in ecosystem service provision. In this study, we utilized satellite-derived chlorophyll a concentrations for Pamlico Sound, North Carolina, USA in conjunction with data on water flow velocities and dissolved oxygen concentrations to identify potential restoration locations that would maximize the oyster reef-associated ecosystem service of water filtration. We integrated these novel factors associated with oyster water filtration ecosystem services within an existing, ‘Metapopulation Persistence’ focused GIS-based, HSI model containing biophysical (e.g., salinity, oyster larval connectivity) and logistical (e.g., distance to nearest restoration material stockpile site) factors to identify suitable locations for oyster restoration that maximize long-term persistence of restored oyster populations and water filtration ecosystem service provision. Furthermore, we compared the ‘Water Filtration’ optimized HSI with the HSI optimized for ‘Metapopulation Persistence,’ as well as a hybrid model that optimized for both water filtration and metapopulation persistence. Optimal restoration locations (i.e., locations corresponding to the top 1% of suitability scores) were identified that were consistent among the three HSI scenarios (i.e., “win-win” locations), as well as optimal locations unique to a given HSI scenario (i.e., “tradeoff” locations). The modeling framework utilized in this study can provide guidance to restoration practitioners to maximize the cost-efficiency and ecosystem services value of habitat restoration efforts. Furthermore, the functional relationships between oyster water filtration and chlorophyll a concentrations, water flow velocities, and dissolved oxygen applied in this study can guide field- and lab-testing of hypotheses related to optimal conditions for oyster reef restoration to maximize water quality enhancement benefits.