Oysters Offering Protection from Storm Surges?

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It may sound strange, but oysters may provide one line of defense against storm surges along vulnerable coastlines.  Super Storm Sandy reminded us of our mistakes in allowing such extensive storm damage to occur.

One major error was filling in “80% of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary’s freshwater wetlands” so it could be developed with buildings and impervious surfaces.  Had the wetlands still existed, they would have absorbed the storm surge.

Also during the last century, we compounded the predicament by allowing industrial pollution to enter our waterways, thus destroying habitat for oyster reefs, which offered a natural barrier against storms and provided economic sustenance.

A few years ago, “landscape architect Kate Orff proposed rehabilitating New York Harbor’s once-extensive oyster beds with what is referred to as Oyster-tecture.”  Since then, students at the New York Harbor School have built an experimental oyster reef in Governor’s Island harbor.  Support continues to grow to revive the once-existing oyster reefs along vulnerable coastlines.

According to The Trust for Public Land, “In addition to helping blunt storm surges, each oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day, removing dirt, algae, and urban runoff pollution like nitrogen.”  Amazing little creatures!

Learn more on page 53 of the 2013 Spring/Summer issue of The Trust for Public Land’s Magazine, NOVA and National Geographic.


Tag(s): Conserving Resources, Green Design, The Great Green Outdoors, Water


One Response to “Oysters Offering Protection from Storm Surges?”

  1. Joyce Benson on August 5th, 2013 10:01 am

    Another means of protection against severe storms are wetlands. Unfortunately in areas where they are most critical, like in Louisiana, oil & gas companies are destroying them at alarming rates. Sign the petition here to convince Governor Jindal to support a lawsuit to protect Louisiana’s crucial wetlands.

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