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Oyster Reef Restoration at North Fork St. Lucie River Aquatic Preserve Quick Topics

Restoration of oyster habitat is occurring within and adjacent to the preserve. Although Martin County has plans to create additional oyster reefs in the Middle Estuary as part of their River Reefs Project, Florida Oceanographic Society (FOS) is the only organization that currently has permitted projects aimed at restoring oyster reefs within the St. Lucie River (SLR). Two of the six restoration sites are located in the preserve: Britt Creek and Harbor Ridge. St. Lucie County also creates fish habitat by deploying artificial materials offshore and recycled oyster shell material in the IRL through their Artificial Reef program. Preserve staff support expansion of these programs, especially creation of oyster reefs using recycled shell material, into the southern section of the preserve within St. Lucie County. An oyster reef restoration project within the Loxahatchee River began in 2008 that will test the effectiveness of potential substrates (e.g. limestone rock, bagged relict oyster shell, and concrete oyster reefballs) that could be used as cultch in future reef creation and restoration projects. Results from this project will help guide future efforts in the SLR.

Martin County worked closely with FOS, Martin County ESC, and Continental Shelf Associates International, Inc. in the creation, deployment, and monitoring of artificial reefs. Eighty-eight reef patches totaling 1,029 square meters were created in 2005 and 2006. These reefs have successfully increased the abundance of filter feeding organisms and provide refuge for juvenile fish and invertebrates in the SLR.

The FOS program has two principle components:

  • Oyster gardening and release.
  • Seeding of newly created reefs made of recycled shell material from local establishments.
Creation of an oyster reef

Creation of an oyster reef
Photo: Continental Shelf Associates, Inc.

The gardening component relies on year-round support from local dock owners that grow (i.e. garden) the juvenile oysters under their docks for three months at a time before they are released onto a nearby oyster reef. In 2008, FOS initiated a second project in which staff grow oyster larvae and seed them on to recycled shell reefs positioned within containment booms. Four oyster reefs comprising 400 square feet of habitat will be created in the Lower Estuary in the spring of 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last updated: September 24, 2010

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