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The Power of Oysters and What They Do For The Environment

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Believe me, if I told you that oysters are powerful creatures! You most probably not believe it at first until you read this article. But oysters are actually powerful creatures because they are natural filter feeders. 

They consume food by pumping water through their gills and trapping food particles, nutrients, chemical contaminants, and suspended sediments. This process helps keep the water clean and clear for aquatic animals and underwater grasses. Due to this reason, oysters are beneficial to the environment. 

These amazing creatures live in salty or brackish waters on the U.S. coasts. Oysters cluster on rocks, piers, and older shells. As the oysters grow, they join together and form reefs that offer marine plants and animals habitat. 

Oysters come into being when free-floating larvae attach to a solid surface. Oysters grow together to form reefs, which act as protective shelters for other sea creatures. Sea anemones, mussels, and barnacles settle on the reefs. 

Oysters have the unique ability to filter and clean surrounding water. 

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Image credit: Steve [email protected]

They even provide habitat to invertebrates and forage fish. The oyster reefs act as a protective nursery for important species such as the herring, blue crab, shrimp, and flounder.

These reefs also function as barriers that prevent erosion caused by storms and tides, protecting productive estuary waters. It is essential to protect and reserve oyster reefs to reap their benefits.  

Overfishing, outdated harvest methods, erosion from development, nutrient pollution, wetland loss, and diseases have damaged and destroyed these reefs. 

As their numbers decrease day by day, the water quality also decreases because they cannot filter water with tiny numbers. The Chesapeake Bay Program focuses on restoring oyster habitat in 10 Chesapeake Bay tributaries by 2025. 

Oysters provide seafood and make waters healthier by filtering algae from the water; therefore, they function as natural filters and improve water that is overloaded with nutrients.

An interesting fact is that a single oyster can filter about 50 gallons of water per day.

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The NOAA Restoration Center is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Program and has funded over 70 oyster restoration projects in 15 states. 

Constructing linear reefs, creating hatcheries, and providing a suitable base through quickly distributing large amounts of the shell with high-pressure hoses, are some of the restoration techniques they use. 

The NOAA’s goal is to restore 100 acres of native oyster habitat in Puget Sound by 2020. Even we can volunteer in NOAA oyster restoration projects and help save these valuable creatures.

Image credit: Steve [email protected]

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