SCCF Marine Lab evaluates success of oyster restoration project
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation recently reported that oyster reef restoration is an effective way of reversing decades of habitat degradation.
The footprint of an oyster reef is visible from Google Earth imaginary and there are many reefs between Shell Point and the SCCF’s Marine Laboratory on Tarpon Bay. Some are small, others are long and sinewy. Oyster reefs filter the water and provide habitat for many fish and invertebrate species.
The Marine Lab has been systematically visiting the sites by boat, finding that nine times out of 10, the reef is so degraded that there may be few to no live oysters remaining. The changes in the timing and delivery of flows from the Caloosahatchee have caused widespread oyster reef destruction. Restoration entails the addition of oyster shell or fossil shell to a degraded oyster reef. The Marine Lab has used this technique to restore four acres of oyster reefs at six sites.
To determine how effective the restoration was, it is necessary to count the number of oysters per square meter at restored sites and reference sites. While the SCCF delayed its sampling activity because of COVID-19, it was able to use social distancing on the vessel and in the lab to count and measure live oysters. The results are showing that the restoration sites have similar densities and sizes as oysters at the reference sites.