June 24, 2021
Do you notice the small islands scattered across this coastal landscape? Do you know what the islands are made of or how they got there? Those “islands” are clusters of intertidal oysters called “reefs”. During the summertime, when water temperatures warm, adult oysters spawn from these and other nearby reefs. Oyster larvae then begin to develop and drift in the water column until sticking to a hard substrate, such as old shells, piers, or rocks, for the rest of their immobile lives. However, a big question remains… How do the baby oysters know where to stick and will they survive (a process called “recruitment”) and grow into large, healthy oyster reefs? Your photo submission will help answer this question by documenting if the reefs are growing through space and 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.