Oysters and the reefs they build are being recognized and restored increasingly for the broad suite of ecosystem services they can provide. However, surprisingly little effort has been devoted to documenting the outcomes of such restoration or creation projects through time, or to comparing projects from different regions. In this study, we examined the oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis) and benthic macrofaunal development on a created intertidal oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis) reef along a salinity and exposure (vertical position on reef) gradient 5 y after creation in the Yangtze River estuary, China. Three years after reef creation, sustainable oyster populations were established successfully and market-size oysters accounted for more than 24% of the total reef cover, with mean abundances ranging from 95–225 adult oysters/m2. Associated community metrics (species richness, abundance. and biomass) of benthic macrofauna showed generally increasing trends with reef development during the 5-y period; however, crustaceans and polychaetes were correlated most strongly with oyster development. Barnacle (Balanus alhicostatus) abundance and biomass were correlated negatively with oyster and reef development. Salinity and exposure frequently interacted, suggesting that development at different places along the reef or salinity gradient was dependent on the vertical position along the reef or the degree of exposure at low tide. Oyster development on this created reef appears to be at a self-sustaining level and provides habitat for associated benthic macrofauna comparable with other regions globally.
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Vol. 31 • No. 3