Oyster Reef Restoration in Gulf Plays Crucial Role in Curbing Sea-Level Rise

Written by Sandra Rodriguez on . Posted in Learn

This past weekend, I was in Alabama helping rebuild oyster reefs in Mobile Bay with about 500 volunteers to kick off the 100-1,000: Restore Coastal Alabama partnership. Check out the video above.

This partnership hopes to build 100 miles of oyster reefs over the next five years and restore or promote 1,000 acres of marsh lands and seagrasses.

So why am I talking about oysters on a climate change blog? Sea-level rise caused by climate change has washed away millions of acres of marshes and seagrasses along the Gulf of Mexico’s coastline and with the Deepwater Horizon disaster last summer, this region needs help in more ways than one.

Oyster reefs provide a natural barrier against coastal erosion and are an example of ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) – helping society respond and adjust to disruptions caused by climate change through the restoration or conservation of functioning ecosystems. Rather than build costly and high-maintenance sea walls and flood barriers, there is increasing evidence that natural solutions like mangroves and shellfish reefs are solutions for slowing shoreline erosion and providing protection, while being economically efficient.

“We are testing and using reefs to help reduce erosion and protect shorelines as sea levels rise. Instead of building artificial structures like submerged breakwaters, we can do the same with a living system,” says Dr. Mike Beck, a marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy and one of the authors of Shellfish Reefs at Risk.

In places like Louisiana and Alabama, barriers like oyster reefs also help prevent or reduce the effects of hurricanes with stronger storm surges, which can be related to climate change. As long as the storms get stronger and oceans continue to rise, we will need more and more restoration and ecosystem-based adaptation projects like Alabama’s oyster reef restoration.

Sandra Rodriguez is media relations manager for climate change at The Nature Conservancy.

YouTube video courtesy of Associated Press.

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Planet Change is a Nature Conservancy blog site designed to share stories about actions the Conservancy and others around the world are taking to fight carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and to help people feel the connections between climate change and their daily lives and understand actions they can take.

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