Oysters effectively filter the water column resulting in improved water quality and provide essential fish habitat for valuable fish species, including gag grouper, gray snapper, sheepshead, redfish, and spotted sea trout.

An image of volunteers placing oyster bags

The St. Lucie Estuary (SLE), IRL and adjacent terrestrial ecosystems provide habitat for over 4,300 species of plants and animals, including more than 30 threatened and endangered species (manatee, wood stork, sandhill crane, and peregrine falcon). 

Vegetated, intertidal oyster reefs increase coastal resiliency by protecting nearby shorelines, dispersing wave energy and retaining onshore sediment.

The removal of exotic vegetation and planting of native trees and shrubs will improve the available habitat for wildlife. 

In cases of sensitive shoreline areas, oyster reefs may provide protection from erosion and protect nearshore, shoreline, and upland areas (Henderson and O’Neil, 2003).

Oyster reefs can be combined with shoreline planting to protect against shoreline erosion by dissipating the energy caused by boat wakes and waves and stabilizing the substrate.

The physical presence of an oyster reef is a stabilizing force for unconsolidated bottom sediments.

The resulting deflection of waves and dissipation of wave energy protects shorelines from erosive forces, encouraging the settlement of suspended sediments and promoting establishment of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV).

This, in turn makes the intertidal and immediately upland area suitable for establishment of a living shoreline.

Along the eastern shore of the IRL, restoration of a living shoreline is proposed, similar in composition to that which fringed the IRL prior to residential development.

Mangroves, cordgrass, and other appropriate plant species will be planted to stabilize the shoreline. Bagged oyster shell and Reef Balls will stabilize and protect these plantings.