Shellebrate the New Year!Dec 28th, 2015 | Category: Blogs, MDC News, Oyster Restoration News, Shoreline Restoration News
We are excited to report that we have our own New Years babies here at the Marine Discovery Center: oyster babies! During a recent program in our restored salt marsh, we noticed some growth on the oyster bags that we placed in October 2014. The new growth turned out to be young oysters that have settled onto the bags and are beginning to form a living reef.
The oyster bags are one component of our ‘Living Shoreline Demonstration Area’, which showcases methods for armoring a shoreline using living materials such as plants and oysters. A Living Shoreline can provide similar protection to a seawall, but allows for much greater wildlife access, habitat availability, and natural processes such as water filtration.
When the young oysters, or spat, first settled onto our oyster bags, they were roughly the size of your pinky fingernail. They had already spent a few weeks of their lives as plankton, floating freely in the water in search of a sturdy new home. When the spat landed on our bags of oyster shell, the shell was a signal to these young larvae that oysters could survive in this area, so they settled in for good. Once an oyster attaches to a hard substrate, it will call that surface home for the rest of its life, which can last up to 20 years if no hungry harvester happens to find it. The oysters we spotted growing in the Marine Discovery Center marsh are now roughly the size of a half-dollar.
The bagged oyster shell was recycled through our Shuck and Share oyster recycling project, and is placed along shorelines in the area to help build healthy oyster reefs. Oysters not only clean our waters through filtration, but they also provide food and habitat for dozens of organisms, and help prevent erosion along the shore by breaking up wave energy. You can see why we are so excited about these young oysters that have found their way to our salt marsh!
Come by the Marine Discovery Center at low tide to see for yourself. The Living Shoreline Demonstration is a short walk from our building, and you will likely spot some wading birds, schools of fish, the occasional dolphin, and various native flowering plants while you’re out there!