June 25, 2021
Do you see the cluster of blocks at the bottom of these photos? That cluster is an ‘oyster castle’, a type of artificial reef habitat made from limestone gravel, concrete, and crushed shell used to restore oysters. Oysters were historically abundant along the Eastern Shore of Virginia; however, due to disease, overharvesting and habitat destruction, oyster populations have declined dramatically. Fortunately, significant efforts have been made to restore oyster populations. Placing this hard substrate in the water provides potential habitat for baby oysters to settle and grow into big, healthy adult oysters. The Nature Conservancy’s staff and local scientists installed this castle in June 2021, but a big question remains… Did they restore habitat in a spot where the oysters will thrive? Your photo submission will help answer this question by documenting the progress of restoration through time. Thank you for contributing to our time-lapse in partnership with the Virginia Coast Reserve Long Term Ecological Research Program , the University of Virginia’s Coastal Research Center, and The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve Chapter .
How do slow, progressive environmental changes (like sea level rise) interact with brief disturbances like storms to shape our seaside landscape? We are trying to find out. Since the mid 1980s, scientists and students from over half a dozen universities have worked together through the VCR Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program to better understand coastal forests, salt marshes, oyster reefs, seagrass meadows, and barrier islands. Our goal is to not only UNDERSTAND how coastal systems work but also to PREDICT how they may function or change in the future due to the effects of changes in climate, sea level and land use. We also connect any of those changes to the ecological services the coastal barrier systems provide to you, such as flood protection or fisheries habitat. Beyond VA's coast, we are connected to a national network of LTER sites, studying and comparing environments all over the country and world.