Small oysters play an important role in stabilizing eroded shorelines – Technology



 Small oysters play an important role in stabilizing eroded shorelines

Technology


Small oysters play an important role in stabilizing eroded shorelines





LACEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Denise Vaccaro bought her Jersey Shore home more than 20 years ago, enchanted by the small beach at the end of a spit of sand in Barnegat Bay where she could sit and reading while listening to the waves and enjoying. cool breezes.

That house was destroyed 10 years ago by Superstorm Sandy, and the beach she loved is gone, too, reclaimed by rising seas that are eroding the shoreline and pushing water onto porches.

“It is very sad that this small community has lost its beach,” Vaccaro said. “People are losing their properties. My house was totally destroyed. It is a way of life that is being lost.”
It’s a story unfolding on shorelines around the world, as once-idyllic beach communities are washed away and residents struggle to adapt.

But here, too, a partial solution is being tested around the world: establishing oyster colonies to form natural barriers that cushion the force of waves and help stabilize eroded shorelines.

One such project is underway near Vaccaro’s reconstructed home, carried out by the American Littoral Society, which received a $1 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The group has been building cages out of steel wire, filling them with rocks and whelk shells and placing them in rows along the shoreline of Barnegat Bay.

Tiny baby oysters, called seed, are attached to whelk shells and placed in the bay near existing cages to further stabilize the shoreline.

The shoreline in the Vaccaro neighborhood has lost 150 feet (46 meters) of beachfront since 1995, according to the Coastal Society.

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For much of it there is no sand at all; the waves crash against the mounds of grass that get smaller all the time. A shuffleboard court that used to be part of a wide beach with lots of sand between it and the bay is now half submerged in water.

“Some of the folks along this coastline have seen their back porches swallowed up by the bay, more than one,” said Julie Schumacher, habitat restoration coordinator for the Littoral Society. “The water is right against them.”

The oyster beds seem to be doing their job as effective breakwaters. On a recent day, a strong easterly wind stirred the bay with white seabreams beyond the oysters. But between the oysters and the shoreline, the water was much calmer, and the waves rolled gently toward the shoreline instead of hitting it.

As a bonus, the oysters help improve the water quality in the bay: a single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons (190 liters) of water a day.

Projects like this are an important part of New Jersey’s coastal resiliency program, using plants and shellfish beds to create “living shorelines” that complement engineered structures like levees and bulkheads to protect homes and people.

A few miles to the south, a group called ReClam the Bay is building an oyster reef to protect the shoreline of Mordecai Island, a patch of uninhabited land that in turn protects the shoreline of Beach Haven, a popular resort town on the island. of Long Beach.

Volunteers fill mesh bags with 35 pounds (16 kilograms) of whelk shells, to which millions of baby oysters have attached, and then carry them to the reef a few hundred meters from shore. They have placed 10,000 bags of oyster and whelk shells there since 2015.

“In the last 100 years, Mordecai Island has lost 35% of its size,” said Jack Duggan, a longtime volunteer with the group. “If we do nothing, in 40 years the island will disappear, it will simply be washed away. This island protects Beach Haven from taking the brunt of all that wave action.”

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ReClam The Bay has done a similar project by establishing an oyster reef in front of a brick wall in Tuckerton, further north in the bay, and the Littoral Society has many other oyster projects underway. At Naval Weapons Station Earle in Middletown, the NY/NJ Baykeeper organization is farming oysters along the heavily guarded pier and deploying them along the shoreline to protect the shoreline, which suffered severe erosion during Sandy.

Governments and volunteers elsewhere are doing the same.

In New York City, state and federal agencies are building “living shorelines” along the southwestern tip of Long Island, using native oysters, shells and plants. A similar project in Delaware used 1,300 bags of shells to extend shoreline protection near Lewes CanalFront Park.

The Oyster Recovery Partnership in Maryland has placed billions of oysters in shells in the Chesapeake Bay in a project that will run through 2025. In Florida, volunteers and researchers established oyster colonies along parts of the Peace River in Punta Gorda. .

In California, the Wild Oyster Project is establishing reefs in the San Francisco Bay to protect the coastline and improve water quality.

In Argyll, Scotland, a group called Seawilding began restoring an area in 2020 near a coastal inlet that had become degraded. There they have restored more than 300,000 oysters. Also in Scotland, a project aims to restore 30,000 oysters near Edinburgh.

Vaccaro realizes that his home in New Jersey may depend on the success of a handful of tiny oysters.

“If we don’t do anything, we’re not going to have any of these houses,” Vaccaro said. “In 20 years, my house, which I rebuilt on stilts, could disappear again. That’s why what we’re doing here is so important to me. I saw what happened and I see what can happen again.”

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