Oyster reefs can outpace sea-level rise

Oysters are a globally important fishery and have been studied for many years. There has already been an 85% decline globally in oyster-reef abundance in the past 100 years. Furthermore, efforts to protect oysters  such as designating reef sanctuaries will be hampered if the vertical reef accretion, or growth, cannot keep up with sea-level rise.

In a recent collaboration led by colleagues at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Institute of Marine Sciences, MSC Associate Professor Jonathan Grabowski measured oyster reef growth in a mid-Atlantic estuary using newer, more innovative techniques. Their research, which appears in Nature Climate Change, demonstrated that reefs can grow up to an order of magnitude faster than older estimates of reef growth, and should outpace  sea-level rise.

Their research also showed that these reefs might actually benefit from the increased water levels by providing room for them to grow vertically.