Since the 1990s, more than 85 percent of the world’s oyster reefs have disappeared according to The Nature Conservancy. In 2017, Coastkeeper, a nonprofit, used natural materials to build habitat for the nearly extinct native Olympia oysters for the first time.
One year into the project, researchers and volunteers evaluated the benefits of restoring eelgrass and oysters simultaneously to protect the shoreline from erosion and rising sea levels, in addition to improving water quality and provide habitat to attract marine life.
Done at Back Bay Science Center in Newport Beach, University students investigated the shoreline to count native Olympia oysters, collected shell samples and evaluate the state of the oyster beds one year after construction.
Restoration of oysters and eelgrass is critical to the health and resiliency of the Newport Bay ecosystem because both species provide many ecosystem services for our coastal wetlands. Oysters increase the abundance of fish and wildlife through their creation of complex habitat and improvement of water quality through filter feeding. Oysters also stabilize sediments and buffer erosion and wave energy, which can reduce the impacts of sea level rise.
Find more information and updates about the oysters at coastkeeper.org/restoration/olympia-oyster/