Program Info

The Gulf of Mexico (GoM) is home to the world's largest remaining wild oyster fisheries, but baseline surveys needed to assess habitat condition are recent and may represent an already-shifted reference state. Here, we use prehistoric oysters from archaeological middens to show that oyster size, an indicator of habitat function and population resilience, declined prior to the earliest assessments of reef condition in an area of the GoM previously considered pristine. Stable isotope sclerochronlogy reveals extirpation of colossal oysters occurred through truncated life history and slowed growth. More broadly, our study suggests that management strategies affected by shifting baselines may overestimate resilience and perpetuate practices that risk irreversible decline.
Oyster body size (i.e., Shell height, mm); density (#/0.25m^2)
The archaeological oyster data counterpart to the modern oyster data in this program are entered under program ID_5072. Note that size-frequency and density data for oysters < 35mm shell height are not reliable because the focus of the study was on specimens >/= 35mm shell height. The publication associated with these program data: Hesterberg SG et al. 2020. Prehistoric baseline reveals substantial decline of oyster reef condition in a Gulf of Mexico conservation priority area. Biol. Lett. 16: 20190865.
Peer-reviewed publication
A total of 21 modern oyster reefs were sampled over the course of two years. On each oyster reef, a 0.25 m^2 quadrat was randomly placed near the reef crest and a second near mean low water. Quadrat areas were excavated to 10cm depth and oysters were bagged and transported back to laboratory for measurement. Live oysters were separated from dead shell and shell height measured using vernier calipers. Only oysters >35mm were recorded and reported here.
Oyster reefs located in Crystal River were sampled in 2015. Inshore and offshore oyster reefs were sampled in 2016.
Data Location
Crystal River; Crystal Bay; St. Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve
Data Format
Oyster/Oyster Reef
SEACAR Citation
University of South Florida. (2016). Prehistoric baseline reveals substantial decline of oyster reef condition in a Gulf of Mexico conservation priority area - modern oyster data. Updated 04/21/2021. Distributed by: SEACAR Data Discovery Interface, Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection, Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Alternative Citation

indicates priority attributes

Stephen Hesterberg

Doctoral candidate, University of South Florida

Export Standardized Data

Habitat(s) : Indicator(s) Last Updated File Download
Oyster/Oyster Reef : Size Class 03/27/24 03:52 PM Download File - Oyster - 5070.txt
DIP Document N/A Download File - DIP

Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection Managed Areas

St. Martins Marsh, Nature Coast


Oyster/Oyster Reef - Size Class

Documentation and Data provided by program

File Type File Name Added On Details
Data Hesterberg_etal_2020_SECAR.xlsx 04/29/20 10:52 AM View Details
GIS Workbook2_wDates.xlsx 09/14/20 12:00 AM View Details
Protocols Hesterberg_etal 2020.pdf 04/29/20 10:52 AM View Details
Protocols Workbook2.xlsx 05/08/20 12:01 AM View Details