AN URGENT CALL FOR MASSIVE LOCAL AND GLOBAL OYSTER HABITAT RESTORATION!
Green Harbors Project® (GHP)
The fact is that oyster habitat is the most degraded coastal habitat globally; the loss is about 85-90%, in comparison with coral reefs loss of 20%. The one-time scale and productivity of oyster reefs is difficult to comprehend (and visualize) when compared to today's nearly extinct wild oysters. This 350 million years old species and its natural habitat is at the brink of total collapse, just in 200 years, due to the intensive human industrial harvesting and pollution of coastal areas, specifically estuaries where most of the harbors and human settlements evolved. The fact is that science acknowledged the ecological value of oyster reefs, and its importance to coastal protection and intertidal engineering connectivity between the land and the sea. We know that oyster habitats (reefs) used to embrace coasts of all continents, and were not limited to just tropical and subtropical areas, vertically growing up to 10 centimeters per year. However, the restoration efforts are at minimum for oysters (70 hectares) in comparison to other degraded coastal habitats (50,000 hectares). How can we do a better job? This presentation will address the urgent need for oyster habitat restoration locally and globally by showcasing few success stories how to do it in urban areas as well as more pristine ones that lost this essential key stone habitat with related ecological services.
One example is from Wellfleet Harbor, the only place with natural oyster population in New England. In 1870, one schooner in one day harvested estimated 1.5 million oysters from the Wellfleet Harbor. In 2016 the harvest for the entire year in this harbor was 7.5 million, mainly from aquaculture, while 1.4 million from commercial oyster harvest.
Through the Green Harbors Project (GHP) we have been working on the oyster reef restoration in Wellfleet Harbor and calculated that potential historic number for oysters might be 34 billion. Through our GHP project, in just two seasons we have restored 2 acres of oyster reef establishing the population of 6 million oysters. Based on this success story, we proposed the plan how to continue this oyster habitat restoration initiative throughout the harbor, in order to increase oyster population and biomass, while improving water quality, specifically addressing excess nutrients and degraded biodiversity. Our work successfully established the first small oyster reef in Boston Harbor in Savin Hill Cove, and has been working throughout Cape Cod and New England to promote the need for biomimetic approach in coastal restoration of their three key stone habitats: oyster reefs, salt marshes and sea-grass beds. These three habitats have been evolving and adapting together, collaborating and sharing water, energy and food nexus between the land and the sea. Therefore, it is a common sense to restore them together.