Oyster Research Restoration Project
Oysters were once a very abundant and cherished resource of the Harbor estuary, but by the early 20th century, sediment and water pollution and overharvesting had all but eliminated these once dominant creatures. While no known reefs and only a handful of individuals remain today, water and sediment quality has dramatically improved and the restoration of the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) to the Harbor may now be possible. A partnership* of not-for-profit organizations, federal, state and city agencies, citizens, and scientists has formed to further scientific understanding of oysters reintroduced into the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary, with the Hudson River Foundation responsible for the overall coordination of the project.
In 2010, six experimental reefs were constructed and installed throughout the Estuary. These reefs were designed to mimic natural oyster reefs and to allow regular assessment of oyster development and ecosystem functions.
Through the support of the Foundation’s Hudson River Fund grants, researchers are currently using the reefs to monitor and analyze:
- reef development (health and growth of mollusks, disease and dieoff, predation)
- base environmental data (water salinity, turbidity, temperature, dissolved oxygen concentrations, nutrient loading)
- ecosystem development (presence and biological productivity of a reef fish community and other flora and fauna, improvements in water quality)
The research teams seek to use innovative means to address these issues as assessing the success of the experimental reefs will be a difficult and evolving scientific exercise. Throughout the two-year experiment period, environmental and oyster development data are shared among the teams and project partners, who all regularly meet as part of the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Program’s (HEP) Oyster Workgroup.
This project will also serve as a new platform for numerous education and outreach opportunities. Partners will have access to the data collected and are expected to develop their own related programming to further engage in the public in the oyster restoration effort and the overall ecosystem restoration agenda.
* Project partners include Hudson River Foundation, NY/NJ Baykeeper, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, The Harbor Foundation, Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, Hudson River Park Trust, U.S Environmental Protection Agency, NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Program, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, New York City Parks Department, New York State Department of Conservation - Hudson River Program, NOAA Restoration Center, Bronx River Alliance, Rocking the Boat, Bart Chezar - Bay Ridge Flats Oyster Project.
Oyster Research Restoration Project Phase 1 Final Technical Report Now Available
ORRP Phase I: Experimental Oyster Reef Development and Performance Results
This report describes the results of the Oyster Restoration Research Proejct (ORRP) Phase I (2010-2012) studies to assess development (oyster retention, growth and survival) and performance (water filtration and habitat provision) at five experimental reef sites (Bay Ridge Flats, Governors Island, Hastings, Soundview and Staten Island). This report also provides an assessment of where additional efforts should be focused and questions that need to be answered. Because the constructed experimental reefs essentially replaced the habitat that existed at the time of construction, there is a need to understand these changes on the broader ecosystem. Thus, another objective of the ORRP Phase 1 studies was to evaluate “habitat substitution” by comparing the faunal benthos before and after reef construction.
Launch of First Experimental Oyster Reefs in NY Harbor
The media is invited to join a partnership of scientists, government agencies, and non-profit groups as they begin the first phase of an ambitious research project to determine the possibility of restoring oyster reefs to NY Harbor.