Comparative survival of bay scallops in eelgrass and the introduced alga, Codium fragile, in a New York estuary.
Eelgrass, Zostera marina, is generally regarded as the preferred habitat of bay scallops, but in some cases scallop populations have persisted or increased in areas lacking eelgrass. This suggests that some other substrate(s) may serve important ecological functions for bay scallops. One candidate is Codium fragile, a macroalgal species with which bay scallops are known to associate and in which we commonly find juvenile and adult bay scallops in eastern Long Island, New York. In this study, we examined whether survival of planted bay scallops differed in Codium, eelgrass, and Codium+eelgrass substrates at two sites during August and October of 2 years. Survival of tethered scallops and recoveries of live free-planted individuals varied with scallop size, planting season and year, but no differences were observed between the three substrates for a given scallop size and planting date. Crab (particularly Dyspanopeus sayi) and whelk predation were implicated as important causes of tethered scallop mortalities while emigration and removal by predators likely contributed to scallop losses. Densities of naturally recruited 0+ years scallops recovered by visual and suction dredge sampling were similar in the eelgrass and Codium substrates. While our results suggest that Codium may offer some degree of predation refuge for bay scallops, further work needs to weigh the potential disadvantages of this substrate (such as low DO levels, potential attachment and transport of scallops, and differences in current flow, food availability and sedimentation relative to eelgrass) to determine if Codium may serve as a valuable habitat for bay scallops throughout their lifespan.