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Florida Sea Grant facilitates large-scale experiments to optimize oyster reef restoration

In 2012, following a severe drought and high salinity, Apalachicola Bay experienced a crash in its oyster population. Historically the bay was the #1 source of wild-caught oysters in Florida, and provided 10% of wild oysters consumed in the USA. Research conducted by Florida Sea Grant and the University of Florida identified that to recover the oysters, it would require a large-scale habitat enhancement program and 1-2 years of no harvesting. There is a shortage of shell material for habitat enhancement, so it is critical to find out that amount of shell material needed to attain productive oyster reefs. Florida Sea Grant is partnering with the FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the FL Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on a 5-year experiment funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The experiment involves evaluating oyster recruitment and growth on 2-acre replicated reefs planted with different densities of fossilized shells as substrate for oyster recruitment and growth. Through this project, researchers have identified an optimal density of shell for oyster recruitment and growth. Photo: Erik Lovestrand

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