Northeast
Billion Oyster Project

New York: Oyster reefs are making a comeback–by protecting coasts from the ravages of climate change

> Oyster reefs are natural barriers that protect shorelines from erosion, tides and storm surge. > They knock down the height and force of waves, but they’ve been decimated by a century of overharvesting and worsening water quality. > Now, they are being rehabbed by multiple projects using millions of dollars of public and private funding. > More than 70 New York City area restaurants are donating their wholly eaten half shells to the Billion Oyster Project.

GOVERNORS ISLAND, N.Y. — They are salty, sumptuous and often served opulently on ice. They are also now on the front lines in the fight to protect coastal real estate from climate change. Oysters — more precisely, oyster reefs.

Oyster reefs are hard, natural barriers that protect shorelines from erosion, rising tides and increasingly severe storm surge. They knock down the height and force of waves, but they’ve been decimated by a century of overharvesting and worsening water quality. Now, they are being restored and repopulated by multiple projects using millions of dollars of public and private funding.

“We’ve seen a loss of almost 80% of oysters in estuaries worldwide,” said Antonio Rodriguez, a University of North Carolina professor of marine sciences who studies oyster reef growth.

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