SAVING NATURE’S JEWEL: A LOOK INTO RESTORING THE POPULATION OF EASTERN OYSTERS IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY
“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” – Jonathan Swift, Irish Satirist
INTRODUCTION Imagine you are sitting on a wooden rocking chair on a balcony overlooking a pristine body of water, slowly swaying back and forth. In the distance, you can see trees border the other shoreline and a small island placed haphazardly in the center of the water. Looking up, the sky is painted with the richest shades of yellow and pink as the sun slowly drifts towards the horizon. You can hear Canadian geese honking as they hunker down for the night and in the background the never-ending flow of water as it heads…show more content… Where is it coming from, and why is it here? What happened to the geese and the water? Above all, is this degree of change possible? The scary truth is that it is. In fact, if you remove a particular species from the waters of the bay, it can cause the entire coastal ecosystem to essentially collapse. What type of animal could possible have such a significant impact on the environment? Oysters.
THE LIFE OF A KEYSTONE SPECIES
The oyster is arguably one of the most unappreciated animals in the Animal Kingdom. It is neither fuzzy nor warm. It does not even have a face! Yet somehow, this unlikeable creature is one of the most important in its ecosystem. In fact, oysters are considered a keystone species, meaning the size of its population has a disproportionally large effect on the health of its ecosystem.
What exactly makes oysters so important? For one thing, oysters are filter feeders. They remove organic and inorganic particles in the water that could be potentially harmful for other organisms. In fact, adult oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water each day (Chesapeake Bay Foundation). By removing microscopic algae and other suspended solids and releasing it back into the water in “bundles,” other organisms are able to utilize the pseudo-feces for nutrients. Not only do oysters increase the clarity of the water, but they also provide a sanctuary for other bay organisms. Oysters provide the perfect