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Oysters: The natural way to protect our shores


A study published in the latest issue of Restoration Ecology finds that in coastal Louisiana, oyster reefs help to deter erosion. Oyster reefs are self-sustaining, and are additionally attractive because they use native materials, have the potential for long-term growth, and contribute to overall ecosystem stability and quality. Oyster larvae move in groups and water-borne chemicals stimulate the oysters’ settlement; reefs are therefore able to maintain themselves as new recruits settle and grow. "Sustainability is an important component to note as maintenance requirements would likely be reduced on created oyster shell reefs as opposed to other heavier shoreline protection structures (i.e. limestone rock breakwaters) which usually necessitate placement of additional material over time to maintain their effectiveness," authors, Bryan P. Piazza, Patrick D. Banks, and Megan K. La Peyre state.

The authors evaluated the effectiveness of six experimental shell reefs on both low and high wave energy shorelines in coastal Louisiana. The areas chosen were conducive to oyster habitation, evidenced by the abundance of oyster shells in surrounding waters. Measuring erosion over a year, the authors found that their small, fringing oyster shell reefs were effective in slowing erosion for low wave energy shorelines, though less effective in higher wave energy environments. The authors conclude that "…the use of small created fringing oyster shell reefs has the potential to provide a useful shoreline stabilization tool to coastal managers under low energy environments."

Jill Yablonski | EurekAlert!
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