An unlikely ecological saviour, one mollusc has the potential to help save us from rising seas – but only if we work at reforesting them in places where they once thrived.
One odd but delectable brunch-time staple is now viewed as a key tool of defence against the effects of climate change.
That’s right – oysters, with their rock-like shells and cluster-growing formations, could be essential in protecting coastal towns and cities.
That being said, 85% of the world’s oyster colonies have disappeared in the last century as a result of harvesting, pollution, and disease. As with most environmental revelations, we’ve only recently come to acknowledge their important role for life in the sea and onshore.
In addition to providing a habitat for small invertebrate and other larger fish to live, oysters provide the essential service of improving water quality by filtering harmful toxins from the surrounding ocean. Just one of these little creatures can filter over fifty gallons of water a day.
To human benefit, bunches of oysters are living barriers that protect shorelines from flooding and erosion during storm surges. They also act as breakwaters in the face of large waves, protecting communities on land in a similar way that mangroves and coral reefs do.