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New Coastal Restoration Technique Uses Oysters to Protect Against Flooding, Sea Level

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A novel technique uses living oyster reefs to protect and restore ecosystems while building resilience against the growing impacts of the climate crisis, including protecting against storm surge and sea level increases. The oyster retrofit technique, developed by the National Wildlife Federation and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory (UMCES) would build “oyster castles” on existing, aging concrete structures in the Chesapeake Bay.

“'Oyster retrofitting’ is not only more sustainable than traditional infrastructure in protecting shorelines and communities but also provides for the local ecosystem,” said Christopher Hilke, director of coastal resilience for National Wildlife Federation. “We are thrilled to put this self-sustaining solution into place, to save time and resources, improve water quality in the Chesapeake, create healthy habitats that protect wildlife and increase effectiveness of existing infrastructure to protect coastal communities” 

Concrete structures are currently littered throughout the Chesapeake Bay to protect communities from damage of coastal storm surge. However, these structures have little wildlife habitat value and are becoming drowned and much less effective at stabilizing shorelines as sea level rises. The addition of living oyster reefs to existing structures provides wildlife habitat while creating a more sustainable solution with promising water quality benefits.  The National Wildlife Federation and UMCES will launch the technique through a pilot project in the Choptank River. 


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