Bald Head Island Conservancy

Notes From the Field: Assessing Restored Oyster Reefs in Bald Head Creek

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Oysters are a keystone species in many saltwater coastal communities. Although many think of them as a menu item, oysters serve as water purifiers, with a single oyster filtering around 50 gallons of a water in a single day! Oyster reefs provide a habitat for many smaller animals such as crabs and worms. They also provide a substrate for other calcifying organisms to build on, like barnacles, mussels, and other oysters.

Last month I spent a week slugging through the salt marsh collecting samples of oysters from sites being restored by the Conservancy, as well as some that are wild, as a part of this year’s oyster reef assessment. The goal: to see how the restored sites are doing since efforts began last year.

What we found was a pleasant surprise. The restored reefs were recruiting oyster spat at a rate of about 53 spat per bag! Additionally, the oysters also contained a variety of crabs, barnacles, worms, mussels, and shrimp, showing that the invertebrates of the creek were successfully finding shelter in the restored reef sites. Our findings are greatly encouraging and give me confidence that the future of oyster reef and salt marsh restoration in Bald Head Creek is bright!

by Cade Cobbs, Bald Head Island Conservancy Fall Intern

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