Ecosystem Services & Restoration

“Protection of the quality of Florida water resources is an important priority for the public and the government agencies. Pollution of surface water (e.g., lakes, rivers, and streams) can be linked to fish kills, changes in the color and aesthetic appeal of the resource, changes in the quality of habitat for aquatic plant and animal life (leading to changes in the plant and animal communities), and to human health issues.”

– UF IFAS WQ Credit Trading Principles.pdf

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With roughly 85% of the global oyster population loss over the last 130 years, the oyster aquaculture industry has attempt to supplant the declining wild harvest for human consumption.  However aquaculture also has the potential to preserve cultural values of watermen livelihoods and the communities that have traditionally relied on this resource both economically and socially.  In addition to economic benefits and preserving a way of life, oyster aquaculture creates benefits of improved water quality and fish habitat which ripple throughout not only the blue economy and seafood supply chain, but also the identity of stakeholders and regions that live on and by the water.

Anthropogenic Sources of Nutrients –
Total Watershed Nutrient Loading

  • Urban/residential development

  • Sewage treatment plant discharges

  • Stormwater runoff

  • Faulty or leaking septic systems

  • Sediment in urban runoff

  • Animal wastes

  • Atmospheric deposition originating from power plants or vehicles

  • Groundwater discharges

Ecological Benefits of Oysters

  • Water filtration by filter-feeding – increased water clarity strengthens our blue economy. Clear, aesthetically pleasing water results in higher tourism, property value, hospitality revenue, tax dollars, etc.

  • Less turbid water promotes more sea grass by allowing more sunlight to reach through the water column and increasing the capacity for the plants to perform photosynthesis and grow

  • More sea grass also provides nursery for sport fish and scallop habitat

Ecological Services Management

To quantify the benefits of these services, the quantity and size of the oysters must be known.

Farms track their inventory via SmartOysters Farm Management Platform, whose proprietary algorithms calculate the volume of water filtered and nutrients removed via empirical scientific data from multiple peer-reviewed sources.

Other unused nutrients that are filtered from the bay are bound as pseudo feces, removed from water column improving overall water quality promoting better conditions for all estuarine species in clearer water, higher DO, balanced pH, etc. for both humans and estuarine species alike.

Oysters – A Keystone Species

Sustainable farming of “blue foods” like oysters is a vital tool for improving the water quality and health of Gulf Coast estuaries. They’re ecological architects, naturally creating habitats for estuarine species and servings as finfish nurseries. 

Science of Nutrient Mitigation

  • Bioextraction of nutrients in the form of phytoplankton which is filtered by oyster feeding
  • Carbon uptake in shell and muscle tissue growth, removed upon harvest
  • Sequestered nitrogen – market size oysters have incorporated considerable amounts of N and P into tissue and shell removing the nutrients entirely upon harvest