Canaveral National Seashore contains some of the last relatively undisturbed oyster reefs along the Atlantic coast. Recently, biologists at the park noticed that the margins of many reefs in Mosquito Lagoon were dying. The dead shells were accumulating along the outer edge and blocking flow of water to the inner portions of the reef, increasing mortality. Subsequent research revealed that boat wakes are the primary cause of the loss. The University of Central Florida developed a simple, but effective, restoration technique. Utilizing plastic mats, oyster shells are attached in an upright position like live shells. This provides a solid substrate for oyster larvae to settle on and helps create new reefs. After a few years in the water, the mats are indistinguishable from nearby natural reefs.
In cooperation with The Nature Conservancy, NOAA, and the University of Central Florida, the park has initiated an ongoing restoration project. The program has been highly successful, involving over a thousand volunteers. At the parkâs recent orientation program for seasonal employees, participants constructed oyster mats for deployment. The restored reefs will serve as valuable habitat and food for many species and play an important role in filtering the lagoon water.