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Oyster Research in the Hudson River Estuary


Oyster Research History

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 only a few small patches of oyster reefs and scattered 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.   The Hudson River Foundation is working with partners to conduct research and design and test restoration techniques suitable for the diverse environs of the Harbor Estuary.

Oyster Restoration Research Partnership (ORRP) – The ORRP was formed by the Hudson River Foundation to bring together academic, governmental, and private to further scientific understanding of oysters reintroduced into the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary.  Partners collaborate on research projects and share data on research experiments and pilot oyster restoration projects.  The partners meet regularly as part of the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary Program’s (HEP) Oyster Restoration Work Group.

Tappan Zee Bridge

Partners: Billion Oyster Project, the Hudson River Foundation and the University of New Hampshire

The Hudson River Foundation conducted a 3-year pilot study in partnership with the University of New Hampshire and the Billion Oyster Project under the direction of AKRF, Inc. and the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA). The study was intended to inform the design of the Tappan Zee Bridge Oyster mitigation project by providing information on the performance of three potential restoration substrates at three potential restoration sites. The performance metrics included attracting (recruiting) oysters, supporting oyster growth and survival, and the longevity and sustainability of the three different substrates and construction techniques: 1) metal gabion cages containing oyster shells; 2) small Reef Balls (“Lo-Pro” style); and 3) larger Reef Balls (“mini-bay ball” style).

NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s Jamaica Bay Oyster Restoration Pilot Project

Partners: Billion Oyster Project, Cornell Cooperative Extension, HDR Engineering, Inc., the Hudson River Foundation and the University of New Hampshire

The Hudson River Foundation is participating in a 3-year oyster research pilot study in partnership with the Billion Oyster Project, Cornell Cooperative Extension, HDR Engineering, and the University of New Hampshire.  The project is directed by the NYC DEP and partially funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior being administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

The major objective of this research project is to test a new approach to enhancing recruitment to constructed oyster reefs where natural recruitment is low or does not occur. The researchers hypothesize that enough of the free-swimming larvae that will be produced by the 50,000 adult oysters growing in the newly installed Oyster Nursery a few hundred feet away will find their way to the reefs.  If they do, and if they attach, grow and reproduce, the experimental research may point the way forward for future restoration efforts.  The project also will measure the filtration capabilities of the Oysters in the Nursery, an important ecosystem service that oysters may provide.

Soundview Park

Primary Project Collaborators: NY/NJ Baykeeper, New York City Parks, The Hudson River Foundation, Billion Oyster Project, The University of New Hampshire,  Bronx River Alliance Rocking the Boat

One of the first oyster research sites in the Hudson River Estuary, Soundview Park remains an active oyster research site where scientific researchers, government agencies, not-for-profit groups, and community members come to study oysters, test restoration techniques, and learn about shallow subtidal oyster reef restoration in the New York Harbor.

Community Based Restoration of Oyster Reef Habitat in the Bronx River: Assessing Approaches and Results in an Urbanized Setting

Lodge, J., Grizzle, R., Coen, L., Mass Fitzgerald, A., Comi, M.,. Malinowski, P. 2015.  Final Report of the NOAA/WCS Regional Partnership Grant, New York, NY.

This project continued and expanded on the previous smaller-scale multi-site effort of the Oyster Restoration Research Project (ORRP). Project partners focused on the development of general protocols for shallow subtidal oyster reef restoration in the New York Harbor region where natural reefs and recruitment of native eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) are uncommon. The primary aim of the multi-year (2012 -2014) effort was: (1) the construction; (2) monitoring; (3) involvement of community partners; and (4) development of novel methods, including adaptive management, ultimately restoring an approximately one acre footprint of productive oyster reef habitat at the confluence of the East and Bronx Rivers, off Soundview Park.

Project Collaborators: The Hudson River Foundation (J. Lodge), NY/NJ Baykeeper (M. Comi, Dr. A. Mass Fitzgerald), Urban Assembly New York Harbor School (P. Malinowski), NY Harbor Foundation, University of New Hampshire (Dr. R. Grizzle), Florida Atlantic University/HBOI (Dr. L. Coen)

Supporting Partners: Bronx River Alliance (L. Cox, D. Griffin), NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, Natural Resources Group (M. Larson, S. Tobing, K. Conrad), Public Lab (L. Barry), Rocking the Boat (A. Green, S. Marquand, C. Ward), Add NY and NJ Harbor and Estuary Program (K. Boicourt), USACE (L. Baron, P. Weppler).

Experimental Oyster Reef Development and Performance Results: Phase 1

Grizzle, R., K. Ward, J. Lodge, K. Mosher-Smith, K. Kalchmayr, & P. Malinowski. 2013. ORRP.

This report describes the results of the Oyster Restoration Research Project (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.