Please select your home edition
Edition
Grapefruit 2018 728x90

Oyster restoration and water quality provide important benefits to the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem

by NOAA Fisheries 17 Mar 16:31 UTC
oyster clump with hooked mussels © NOAA Fisheries

Oysters and oyster reefs provide important benefits to the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Oysters are filter feeders, so they help clean the water as they "eat," improving water quality. And the reefs in which they grow provide habitat for fish, crabs, and a host of other Bay species.

All this can add up to impressive benefits for people, too: Researchers from Morgan State University estimated that mature oyster reefs can contribute to a 160% increase in blue crab harvest and more than $23 million per year in regional output for the Choptank River watershed on Maryland's Eastern Shore. That's because commercially and recreationally important fish are drawn to the reefs for places to live and find food.

Many are familiar with satellite images of land and water. But satellites can share data beyond simple images.

But the Chesapeake's oyster population is at a critically low levelso NOAA and other partners in the Chesapeake Bay Program are working toward a goal to restore oysters to 10 Bay tributaries by 2025.

How can we tell whether the newly constructed or enhanced reefs are having a positive effect on the Bay? Scientists monitor each reef at three and again at six years after restoration; so far, restoration reefs in tributaries of the Choptank River are thriving.

Researchers are also investigating how much nitrogen and phosphorus (excess amounts of which can lead to harmful algae blooms and subsequent low dissolved oxygen levels) oysters can pull from the water. According to a model recently developed by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the value of nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient removal services in Harris Creek may be more than $3 million per year.

Restored oyster reefs can improve water qualityincluding water clarityand provide important habitat.

But how much do oysters clear the water? Recently, NOAA scientists noticed a potential correlation between locations where large-scale oyster restoration is under way and places where satellites have noted clearing water. While no cause-and-effect relationship can be attributed to the oyster restoration at this point, scientists are interested in learning more.

Satellites can be used to estimate the amount of sediment (both organic and inorganic) in the water by relating the amount of light reflected by particles, and seen by the satellite, to sediment concentration measurements. This serves as an indication of water clarity. The NASA Aqua satellite, which passes over the Chesapeake Bay once each day during daylight hours, has observed "total suspended matter concentration"TSMsince 2009. NOAA scientists used a program developed by the U.S. Geological Survey to analyze and visualize annual averages of TSM in the Choptank area from 2009 to 2017.

Satellites track water clarity by estimating suspended sediment concentration, based on how particles in the water reflect visible light.

Their analysis indicates that over the 2009-17 time period, the waters in the Harris Creek/Choptank areanear large-scale oyster restoration siteswere becoming more clear as there were fewer particles in the water. Other waters are also becoming clearerbut not as markedly. Using similar methods, the team of satellite and habitat analysts will dive deeper into the data in coming months.

Related Articles

Lone bowhead whale sighted in Gulf of Maine
For the past few years a lone bowhead has been sighted in the waters off Cape Cod, Massachusetts This Arctic whale was more than a thousand miles from the southernmost extent of its range, socializing and feeding with other whale species before it disappeared from sight. Posted on 14 Apr
Project Protect - SCTLD Interdiction
Force Blue tackles coral disease A new video chronicles the efforts of NOAA partner Force Blue, a nonprofit that engages veterans in restoring coral ecosystems, to halt the spread of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, which is ravaging the Florida Coastal Reef Tract. Posted on 13 Apr
How will changing ocean chemistry affect shellfish
Scientists at the NEFSC Milford Lab are shining some light on ocean acidification While climate change gets most of the publicity, did you know that the ocean absorbs about a quarter of that extra carbon dioxide? Posted on 12 Apr
Second young dolphin disentangled off Florida
After suffering injuries from fishing line During a routine field survey in February, biologists from the Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program noticed the 2-year-old male dolphin looking underweight. Posted on 4 Apr
West Coast waters grow more productive
The ocean off the West Coast is shifting from several years of unusually warm conditions The ocean off the West Coast is shifting from several years of unusually warm conditions marked by the marine heat wave known as the "warm blob," toward a cooler and more productive regime that may boost salmon returns Posted on 16 Mar
NOAA supports recovery in Puerto Rico, USVI
National Ocean Service continues to provide recovery support in US Virgin Islands & Puerto Rico In December, NOAA received its second FEMA Recovery Support Mission Assignment to enable "U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Coral Reef Emergency Response and Restoration for Sustainable Ocean Economies, Food Security, and Storm Surge Mitigation." Posted on 15 Mar
Faces of whale conservation in the Pacific Islands
Postmortem examinations revealed new insights into biology and ecology of local cetaceans NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the nation's ocean resources, and this includes various species of cetaceans, which are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as, for some species, the Endangered Species Act. Posted on 10 Mar
Help right whales: give them space
Learn how to keep right whales safe by staying at least 500 yards away NOAA scientists, resource managers, and partners are coordinating closely to solve this urgent conservation challenge. We need to do everything we can to ensure their survival. Posted on 9 Mar
New online training on whale entanglement
Recreational boaters are often the first to spot entangled whales Although only highly trained and experienced teams should attempt to disentangle whales to minimize the dangers involved to responders and whales, boaters who come across entangled whales can gather info and monitor the animals until trained teams arrive. Posted on 22 Feb
Mid-Atlantic boaters: Watch out for whales!
As large whales migrate along the Eastern Seaboard As large whales migrate along the Eastern Seaboard, remember to follow responsible wildlife viewing guidelines to keep everyone--whales and people-- safe! Posted on 9 Feb
Zhik 2018 Hyeres 728x90 BOTTOMMarine Resources BOTTOMGJW Direct - Yacht 2019 - Footer