Oyster Reef Restoration in Aransas Bay, Texas

The overall goal of this project is to restore approximately 2.8 acres of oyster reef complex in Aransas Bay, Texas, part of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve. The 3-dimensional reef complex will enhance oyster population viability by increasing the amount of available substrate for recruitment and attachment of larval oysters and will create important habitat for use by reef-associated organisms. The restored reef will be constructed in a location to expand upon previous successful oyster reef restoration efforts in Aransas Bay.

Led by Dr. Jennifer Pollack, HRI Chair for Coastal Conservation and Restoration, the restored reef will be constructed using approximately cubic yards of hard substrate, which may include oyster shell, river rock, limestone, or clean concrete, depending on availability and cost. Research has demonstrated the viability of all these materials for use in reef restoration (Graham et al. 2016). The 3-dimensional reef complex will be built in ~1-1.5-meter water depth and will incorporate vertical relief to maximize access by larval oysters, enhance habitat provision for fauna, and minimize sedimentation.

The reef complex will consist of three restored reef mounds of dimensions 20 meters by 30 meters by 0.33 meters with 20 meters between mounds. Because complex reef structures provide habitat for numerous fish and invertebrate species, the reef design incorporates a series of reef mounds where the “hills and valleys” are essential design elements. The area of reef complex restored includes the area of constructed mounds “hills,” and a 20-meter buffer around the restored mounds “valleys” that will benefit directly from reef restoration.

This project will build on existing restoration efforts, beginning with project location. The project site is in shallow waters that are closed to fishing. The site was chosen to expand upon 15 acres of oyster reef that have previously been restored at this location. The area has been subject to an extensive restoration suitability assessment to identify this as one with suitable environmental conditions, abundant larval supply, and low disease. Dr. Pollack’s team has successfully restored other oyster reefs within this bay system using similar methods (Graham et al. 2016; Rezek et al. 2017; Blomberg et al. 2018).

 

This project runs February 2021 through July 2021.

 

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Blomberg BN, Palmer TA, Montagna PA, Beseres Pollack J (2018). Habitat assessment of a restored oyster reef in South Texas. Ecological Engineering 122: 48-61.

 

Graham P, Palmer TA, Beseres Pollack J (2016). Oyster reef restoration: substrate suitability may depend on specific restoration goals. Restoration Ecology 25: 459-470. DOI: 10.1111/rec.12449.

Rezek R, Lebreton B, Roark EB, Palmer TA, Beseres Pollack J (2017). How does a restored oyster reef develop? An assessment based on stable isotopes and community metrics. Marine Biology 164: 54. doi:10.1007/s00227-017-3084-2.