Oyster reefs are the foundation of healthy bays and estuaries around the world. For thousands of years, reefs have provided food and habitat for birds and marine life. They buffer our coasts from waves and improve water quality and clarity by filtering impurities from the water. Reefs support the growth of essential coastal vegetation like marshes and seagrass beds.
During the last century, intense oyster harvesting, pollution, disease and degraded habitat have combined to make oyster reefs the most severely impacted marine habitat on Earth. Globally, 85 percent of oyster reefs have been lost. Without oyster reefs, our coastal ecosystems breakdown – marine life declines, shorelines erode, and marshes and sea grasses disappear.
The Nature Conservancy is working with more than 100 public and private partners throughout the United States to restore oyster reefs. Using innovative techniques that encourage the natural growth of oysters, scientists are restoring the balance of our coasts and finding long-term solutions to issues like erosion and sea-level rise.