In May, oyster reef elements were placed in the San Francisco Bay to assist the creation of a living shoreline near Giant Marsh near Point Pinole Regional Shoreline in the California city of Richmond, part of a project Ducks Unlimited is partnering with the California Coastal Conservancy and other groups to build new native oyster reefs interspersed with eelgrass.
Living shorelines use nature-based infrastructure to create shoreline buffers that reduce the impacts from sea level rise and erosion, while creating habitat for fish and wildlife. Though a relatively new climate adaptation technique, living shorelines are proving to be an effective approach to protecting coastal resources and shoreline communities. The Giant Marsh project is one of a small number of living shoreline trial projects taking place in the San Francisco Bay, but is the only one that connects the submerged underwater habitats with adjacent wetlands and upland ecotone plant communities.
This project will benefit multiple species, including Buffleheads, which find lots of food around eelgrass beds .
“It’s easy to focus on a single species but to step back and consider the ecology of whole system – and how your target species might benefit as well – is an exciting way to think about doing restoration,” says Chela Zabin, a biologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center also on the Giant Marsh team. “It makes sense, it’s more holistic.”
The team hopes to recreate or enhance the historic function of each kind of plant, habitat, and species in the shore zone. It also hopes to confront sea level rise head on in the habitats of thousands of people and the last few California Ridgway’s rails and salt marsh harvest mice. Nature-based infrastructure may be able to help us all adapt in ways seawalls cannot.
Click the video below to watch the new oyster reefs put into action.