Refining Field Methods for Oyster Reef Carbon Sequestration

Oyster reefs are ecosystem engineers that build habitat (reefs) that support high levels of biodiversity for numerous marine species within Gulf of Mexico estuaries. The value of ecological benefits provided by oyster reefs has been estimated at $2,000-$40,000 per acre for increased biodiversity, protected shorelines, and improved water quality, and $23,000 per acre for recreational angling. Unfortunately, oyster reef loss is among the highest of all marine habitats, with estimates of only 50% of native populations remaining in the Gulf of Mexico, necessitating an increase in conservation and restoration investments. Developing a greater understanding of the role of carbon capture and storage by oyster reefs will provide a broader rationale for future restoration and conservation investments, while protecting and supporting critical habitats for marine species. This research will develop, validate, and disseminate a transferable sampling approach to measure the role of subtidal oyster reefs in capturing and storing carbon.

This research will help determine the role of oyster reefs in carbon sequestration, which will lay the foundation for a carbon market promoting restoration of this critical resource. There is growing interest in using coastal habitat conservation and restoration approaches to mitigate climate change while generating value-added benefits like those provided by oysters. Oysters are essential to fisheries by providing habitat, refuge, and food to over 300 marine species and supporting immense amounts of biomass. This tools to measure the impact of reef restoration on carbon sequestration and at the same time enhance recreational fishing.