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View Diary: Overnight News Digest: KBR found guilty of negligence, fined $85 million (32 comments)

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  •  Oysters (22+ / 0-)

    Paul Greenberg @ NYT: An Oyster in the Storm

    I’m talking about the oysters that once protected New Yorkers from storm surges, a bivalve population that numbered in the trillions and that played a critical role in stabilizing the shoreline from Washington to Boston.

    Crassostrea virginica, the American oyster, the same one that we eat on the half shell, is endemic to New York Harbor...

    Until European colonists arrived, oysters took advantage of the spectacular estuarine algae blooms that resulted from all these nutrients and built themselves a kingdom. Generation after generation of oyster larvae rooted themselves on layers of mature oyster shells for more than 7,000 years until enormous underwater reefs were built up around nearly every shore of greater New York.

    Just as corals protect tropical islands, these oyster beds created undulation and contour on the harbor bottom that broke up wave action before it could pound the shore with its full force. Beds closer to shore clarified the water through their assiduous filtration (a single oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day); this allowed marsh grasses to grow, which in turn held the shores together with their extensive root structure.

    But 400 years of poor behavior on the part of humans have ruined all that.

    In addition to levies and flood gates, NYC and other East Coast cities should plant more oysters. Of course, with the acidification of the oceans due to global warming, that approach may not work so well in the future.

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