Using GIS to create a habitat suitability index model for eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica)-favorable restoration
A habitat suitability index model for the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica), a tool for restoration of the Caloosahatchee Estuary, Florida.
Barnes, T.K. Vollety A.K., Chartier, K., Mazzotti, F.J., and Pearlstine, L. 2007. Journal of Shellfish Research 26:4.
Florida’s everglade system, which was once an expansive, highly productive system has been decimated by conversion of land and alteration of its hydrology. Recent years have brought an interest in restoring this important wetland system–including the headline-grabbing planned purchase of U.S. Sugar land by the state for restoration. While this effort has hit snags in the recent national economic environment, Everglades restoration efforts and interest continue.
Managers often seek to design restoration plans that will be most effective for species of interest. Or design may consider how to benefit the most species. Planning restoration around a keystone species is one way to may a big impact. Barnes et al describe the development of a habitat suitability index (HSI) model for weighing restoration alternatives. Using the eastern oyster (Crassosotrea virginica) as their evaluation species, the team incorporated a number of habitat metrics (salinity, temperature, substrate, high flow frequency) into their model to assess alternatives for this keystone species.
GIS played an important role. ESRI ArcObjects was used to program their model into Microsoft Visual Basic. ESRI describes ArcObjects as “a set of platform independent, component based geographic data models written in C++ (which) offer services to support and build geographic information system (GIS) solutions…(for)GIS developers and users.” This product allowed the authors to model habitat response to their index spatially within a grid while utilizing multiple data sources. The result was a clear visual representation of the area of interest based on environmental conditions.
The authors revealed flaws in an existig restoration plan that would result in suboptimal hyrdological charateristics required by oysters with use of their model. They praised the incorporation of their models into a GIS interface for making results easy to interpret and exploring details for specific locations within the estuary of interest.