College Station, Texas — Oysters are often referred to as the superheroes of the sea, and for good reason. Besides being widely loved as delicious seafood, oysters provide many environmental benefits along the Texas coast.
Oysters are considered a keystone species, meaning they are important players in the overall health of the ecosystems they inhabit.
From water filtration to shoreline stabilization, these benthic bivalves have many ecological benefits. Oysters are filter feeders and consume microscopic plants and animals found in the water. Because of this, oysters filter massive amounts of water, effectively improving water quality in the ecosystems they inhabit. In fact, one oyster can filter more than 50 gallons of water in 24 hours — that’s roughly as much as an average American uses in a 10-minute shower.
Oysters also form reef systems that play important roles in habitat stabilization of coastal ecosystems. As they grow, oysters settle down on a solid surface where they spend the rest of their lives.
Over time, many oysters will accumulate on rocks and old shells and eventually create reefs. These oyster reefs can protect other underwater creatures and vegetation from the effects of waves or tides and, depending on where the reef is located, can even help prevent shoreline erosion.
Oysters and their reefs also provide important habitat for dozens of recreational and commercially valuable species, including blue crab, croaker and shrimp. The structure of oyster reefs give fish and crabs refuge from predators and are generally a great place for smaller foraging species to live.
Oyster reefs have also been noted as major supporters of seagrass beds and marsh edge habitat.
“Oysters really are the unsung heroes of the Texas bays,” says Texas Sea Grant oyster aquaculture specialist Mario Marquez. “Besides being delicious, they are the work horses that keep our bays clean and protect our coast.”
Sara Carney, Communications Manager, Division of Marketing & Communications, Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M University, 713-435-9585, firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas Shorelines is a service of the Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M University. Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 34 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.