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DNR Continues Restoration Efforts in Harness Creek, South River with the addition of 0.41 million oyster spat to existing reef from the Oyster Recovery Partnership

September 2005 - The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Resource Assessment Service is working to restore native oysters and bay grasses to Harness Creek on the South River in partnership with the Oyster Recovery Partnership, South River Federation, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Trust, NOAA, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

A photo of the oyster recovery partnership seeding oyster spat.Oyster reefs and bay grasses are the two most important habitats in the Chesapeake Bay. Bay grasses (also known as submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV) provide important habitats for young fish and crabs, serve as food for waterfowl, help protect shorelines from erosion, keep water clear, consume excess nutrients, and add oxygen to the water. In addition to providing all of the same ecosystem services as bay grass beds, oyster reefs also filter algae and sediments from the water column. Reduced light penetration, due to algae and sediment clouding the water column, is a major cause of decline in bay grass populations.

It is thought that if the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration Goals set forth in the Chesapeake Agreement (2000) are met, increased numbers of oysters could remove enough suspended material from the water column to increase light penetration to the bottom, a critical step for bay grass survival and resurgence. The Harness Creek project is investigating the effectiveness of native oysters (Crassostrea virginica) in improving water quality specifically to support bay grass restoration, growth and survival.

In 2003, a small oyster reef (0.2 acres) was constructed across the mouth of a small cove in Harness Creek with 3,000 bushels of oyster shells and seeded with 875 bushels of native oysters. Maryland DNR began monitoring water quality conditions in Harness Creek in 2003 and is currently tracking improvements in water quality as a direct result of the oysters, relative to the habitat requirements of bay grasses for future bay grass transplants. The second year of oyster monitoring was completed in September 2005. Maryland DNR staff assessed overall oyster health, specifically survival, growth and presence of disease (MSX and Dermo). In early October 2005, Maryland DNR supervised the addition of 0.41 million oyster spat, provided by the Oyster Recovery Partnership, to the existing reef. Once the enlarged oyster reef provides significant increases in water quality, bay grass restoration plantings will take place inshore of the oyster reef.  Learn more.
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