Since 2005, Brevard Zoo, in partnership with UCF, has been using special oyster restoration mats to rebuild oyster reef habitat in suitable areas of Mosquito Lagoon, a region of the Indian River Lagoon located in Volusia County that is part of the Canaveral National Seashore…
The restoration process begins by raking down and leveling layers of accumulated dead oysters, known as dead margins, at former oyster reef sites. Once the site has been leveled to the proper intertidal height, the next step is anchoring down oyster mats, upon which new oysters can have a permanent home without the possibility of future disturbance. The oyster mats are laid out like a patchwork quilt and are connected and anchored using concrete doughnuts. Over time, a single oyster mat will become home to an average of 235 new baby oysters.
The oyster mats themselves are made from sections of aquaculture grade mesh containing 36 empty oyster shells attached with zip ties. The mats are placed on the estuary floor in order to provide a hard substrate for free-floating oyster larvae to attach to so that they can begin to build a new reef. Since oysters are a gregarious species, meaning they like to live in groups, the placement of shells in these areas attracts the larvae, which can detect the calcium carbonate in the shells of other oysters. And the mats are such an effective substrate that, not only will they withstand disruption from boats, but they will even endure hurricanes. For that reason, use of oyster mats is a means of accomplishing the permanent restoration of oyster reefs in the northern portion of the Indian River Lagoon.
So far, the Oyster Mats project has used over 43,000 mats to help build 73 restored reefs. The project is almost exclusively based on the efforts of more than 46,000 volunteers from all across Florida who are responsible for virtually every aspect of the project, from cutting and assembling mats to drilling shells, transporting mats to restoration sites and installing mats on restoration reefs.
Select the link to read the Oyster Mats 2014 Annual Report.
Select the link to view our Oyster Restoration FAQ’s