Oyster Restoration Project Replenishes Ecologically Important Habitat
Display installed at Jack Dunster Marine Reserve encourages public awareness of sensitive oyster habitats
ORANGE COUNTY, September 14, 2015 – Eighty-five percent of the world’s oyster reefs have disappeared since the 1990s – taking an important food source and ecologically important habitat with them. Over the course of two years, Orange County Coastkeeper, in partnership with California State University Fullerton, CSU Long Beach and KZO Education, worked to restore the oyster habitat at the Jack Dunster Marine Reserve in Alamitos Bay. Today, a sign stands at the restoration site to educate visitors about the importance and necessity of replenishing oyster populations.
As the only native oyster species on the west coast of the United States and Canada, Olympia Oysters once stretched from Alaska to Baja California providing habitat and refuge for other organisms, such as octopus, crabs and fish. Due to overharvesting, coastal development, destruction of wetlands and increased water pollution, populations of the Olympia oyster have been vastly depleted.
“Oysters are a foundation species and have a profound impact on our natural environment. Not only do oysters increase habitat biodiversity, they also improve water clarity and stabilize sediments,” says Sara Briley, Marine Restoration Director for Orange County Coastkeeper.
Since 2012, teams of scientists, students and volunteers have worked to lay new oyster beds using “dead” oyster shell, which provides habitat for future settlements of juvenile oysters. From these efforts, according to CSU Fullerton’s unpublished data, the density of Olympia oysters on the oyster bed has significantly increased and is now over 60 times greater than reference densities around the rest of the bay.
“We are lucky to work with organizations and volunteers that recognize the need to restore habitats to original levels and the oyster’s important role in doing this,” says Briley.
The restoration site in Alamitos Bay serves as a model for restoration projects to come. Coastkeeper also plans to use these same restoration techniques for its work in the recently funded “Living Shorelines” project in Newport Bay, which restores oyster and eelgrass beds as natural buffer zones that protect shorelines from erosion due to quickly rising sea levels.
ORANGE COUNTY COASTKEEPER: Founded in 1999, the mission of Coastkeeper is to protect and promote sustainable water resources that are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable. Coastkeeper is a nonprofit clean water organization that serves as a proactive steward of our fresh- and saltwater ecosystems. We work collaboratively with diverse groups in the public and private sectors to achieve healthy, accessible, and sustainable water resources for the region. We implement innovative, effective programs in education, advocacy, restoration, research, enforcement, and conservation. For more information, visit www.coastkeeper.org or call 714-850-1965.