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Oyster Goals Project

Amanda Wrona, Global Marine Team 2/14/2014

oyster goals project, shellfish, restoration, marine conservation science
The Oyster Goals project is a two phase collaborative process to help scientists and managers answer the question: how much shellfish reef restoration is enough?
Oyster reefs are the most imperiled marine habitat on Earth, with a staggering 85% loss in just the past two centuries (Beck et al., 2011).  There are many threats to shellfish reefs (oyster, clams and other bivalves) that explain this loss including dredging, historic and ongoing fishing, water quality problems, and introduced parasites. A situation analysis conducted by TNC and partners suggests that there is a fundamental lack of understanding and accounting for critical ecological functions that have been lost with the loss of oyster reefs.  

TNC and others have made shellfish reef restoration a priority strategy over the past decade. Recently, TNC and other partners have focused on taking restoration from demonstration sized projects to large ecosystem scale projects while focusing on measuring and describing the ecosystem services re-gained by shellfish restoration; filtration, or water quality, denitrification, fish production and shoreline protection.
In 2009, TNC in partnership with NOAA, NFWF, and large group of shellfish, marine and fisheries scientists, began work on the Oyster Goals Project in 2009.  This project (Phases I and II) will develop ecosystem service models which can be used for scaling restoration projects and defining anticipated outcomes, and by providing data in a usable format to allow managers to evaluate restoration priorities. With these models and information about past- and present-day abundance and condition of oyster reefs at the bay scale, we believe it is possible to change management of these critical coastal ecosystems to ensure that they sustain both human and ecological communities. 
Recent Publications:

Oyster habitat restoration monitoring and assessment handbook.  2014 Baggett, L.P., S.P. Powers, R. Brumbaugh, L.D. Coen, B. DeAngelis, J. Greene, B. Hancock, and S. Morlock. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA, USA., 96pp.

Quantifying the historic contribution of Olympia oysters to filtration in Pacific Coast (USA) estuaries, and the implications for restoration objectives. 2013. Zu Ermgassen, P. S. E., Gray, M. W., Langdon, C. J., Spalding, M. D., and R.D. Brumbaugh. Aquatic Ecology.
Quantifying the Loss of a Marine Ecosystem Service: Filtration by the Eastern Oyster in US Estuaries. 2013. ZuErmgassen, P.S.E., Spalding, M.D., Grizzle, R.E. and R. D. Brumbaugh. Estuaries and Coasts.
Historical ecology with real numbers: past and present extent and biomass of an imperilled estuarine habitat. 2012. Philine S. E. Zu Ermgassen1, Mark D. Spalding, Brady Blake, Loren D. Coen, Brett Dumbauld, Steve Geiger, Jonathan H. Grabowski, Raymond Grizzle, Mark Luckenbach, Kay McGraw, William Rodney, Jennifer L. Ruesink, Sean P. Powers and Robert Brumbaugh. Proceedings of the Royal Society.
Phase I: National Fish and Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy
Phase II: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Nature Conservancy
Related Publications/Links:
Shellfish Reefs at Risk