Can oysters save NC coast from climate change?

“Antonio Rodriguez, a coastal geology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his colleagues spent 15 years measuring oyster reefs in intertidal zones on the Carolinian coast. In a study released this week, the team reports that, over the years, these reefs have grown at a pace that would match any future sea-level rise. According to Rodriguez, this is a good case for actively restoring oyster reefs on the East Coast. ‘One could end up with a reef that will help protect the shoreline from erosion, filter water, provide fish habitat, and be able to keep up with sea-level rise,’ he says. ‘No rock sill can do those things.’

“Oyster walls are dynamic, in other words. Conventional sea walls, tough though they may be, are static. After the ocean rises enough, waves will be able to swoosh over the top of stone walls. Oyster reefs grow by accumulating drifting oyster larvae that latch on and are kept in place by sediment buildup….

“If ‘oyster-tecture’ ever does happen — and Rodriguez’s research may help it along — it will be a great example of American adaptation to climate change.”

— From “How Oysters Can Protect Houses From Hurricanes” by Svati Kirsten Narulain in The Atlantic (May 5)

Not everyone, of course, believes oysters are needed for anything but seafood platters.