Monday, November 17, 2008

Conserving the Space Coast Beaches: And Hope for Mr. Oyster

Some friends of mine over on Florida’s Atlantic coast have a terrific blog going dedicated to conserving and enjoying Florida’s wonderful Space Coast beaches and the Indian River Lagoon, not to mention helping to restore our friend the oyster. They have been kind enough to let me share this blog with you about the ongoing efforts to restore oyster life to the Lagoon. And it is an effort you can participate in, as they write in this blog:

"Google Analytics reports that in the last 30 days, our blog had visits from twenty-seven different countries. Of course, most of the visitors are from the United States, but even then, we’ve had viewers from thirty-four states. I think it is safe to say that not all of our visitors know about making oyster mats.

Luckily, we have the Nature Conservancy and Anne Birch, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Indian River Lagoon Program, to explain their oyster reef restoration initiative. The Indian River Lagoon stretches 156 miles along Florida’s east coast and is described as the most diverse estuary in North America. Years of development and agriculture have threatened the health and well being of the Lagoon and everything it comprises, including oysters. The Conservancy is working with Dr. Linda Walters from the University of Central Florida (UCF) to restore oyster reefs in the Mosquito Lagoon area (within the boundaries of Canaveral National Seashore) using oyster mats constructed by thousands of volunteers.

The project is funded by grants through a National Partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Community-Based Restoration Program, the Nature Conservancy, and many other partners throughout the Lagoon.Leslie from the Barrier Island Center provided us with the above photo showing an oyster restoration mat made by one of the children at a Nature Conservancy workshop held at the Center.

Each individual mat is laid like a tile and anchored to another with cement sprinkler weights to form a new reef. Each new reef is made up of anywhere from a few hundred to over one thousand mats. Within 18 months of being placed on the reefs, the mats have attracted oyster larvae and are covered with live oysters, providing habitat and food for fish and crabs and filtering the water. Sea grass is even starting to re-colonize next to some of the news reefs.

Those of you that live in or near Brevard or Volusia County can attend an oyster mat workshop – the Florida version of a quilting bee! Follow this link for dates and locations, as well as for more information on the project Our thanks to the Nature Conservancy and the volunteers for their efforts on behalf of our Lagoon. I was particularly taken with the spirit line on Anne's email: Volunteer Opportunities for Restoring the Charismatic Oyster. Viva La Oyster!"

Note from Robin: If you live in the region you might really enjoy participating. These are really interesting people, many of whom work in Florida's space and high tech industry. If you don't live in the region and you visit one day, you’ll reap the benefits of their work.Check out their Web Site at
They have some beautiful DVDs you can order that both entertain and educate. Thanks Beach Basics!

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