Water-Related News

Volunteers needed for Lee County oyster reef construction

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Lab has undertaken a project to increase oyster reef habitat in Lee County and needs enthusiastic volunteers to help make it a reality.

Healthy oyster populations and seagrass beds are vital to the health of estuarine ecosystems. Excessive freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee have resulted in losses of these critical habitats in the Caloosahatchee, San Carlos Bay and Matlacha Pass. To offset these impacts and build resiliency, the Caloosahatchee Estuary Resource Recovery Pilot project proposes a four-part restoration and monitoring plan. The intent of this program is to replace critical ecosystem components such as oyster reefs and SAV that were lost by the high volume 2013 discharges to the N. estuaries. This project is funded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Sites were chosen to increase resiliency to severe floods or severe droughts at increasing FDEP sitesdistances from the main source of freshwater, the Caloosahatchee. Sites closer to the Caloosahatchee (east) will have higher oyster settlement and survival during dry periods, while sites farther away (west) will fair better during floods. The map also shows sites located within J.N. “Ding” Darling’s Tarpon Bay. The orange triangles are oyster restoration sites and the red dots are sawfish encounters (FWC-provided data, 2003-2013).

The reefs will be expanded using restaurant-collected oyster shell supplemented with fossilized shell. Oyster density, size-frequency, settlement, and reef associated animals will be compared to nearby reference sites and unrestored sites. The filtering capacity of the reef will be estimated through a collaboration with Dr. Ray Grizzle from the Jackson Estuarine Lab at the University of New Hampshire.IMG_3102

Arrangements were made with Lee County Natural Resources and Mosquito Control District to take a helicopter flight and photo restoration sites. This image is from 200 ft. looking at a site where fossilized shell will be placed with an excavator in 2015. The PVC poles mark the perimeter of the area to be restored (0.9 acres).

Elevation surveys (pre-construction) were conducted on March 26, 2015. A slide show of the team determining the level of reference reefs and the pre-construction restoration site in Tarpon Bay can be found here.

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