Recovery and Resilience of Oyster Reefs in the Big Bend of Florida

The goal - keeping estuaries resilient in the face of global change. The primary goal of this project is to restore degraded chains of reefs in a way that is resilient both to sea level rise, and to continued low flows from the river. By so doing, we predict healthy reefs will buffer the estuaries from fluctuations in salinity, and from coastal erosion. The effects of this buffering should cascade to the fish, shellfish, birds and plant communities that humans care about, under a variety of future climate and sea level conditions.


Construction activities to restore Lone Cabbage reef took place during July – November 2018, and the reef construction was considered complete by December 2018. The work was all performed by local contractors and subcontractors and used rock that was mined in Branford.

The 3.5 mile long chain of 22 reef elements is now covered with a base of limerock boulders top-dressed with oyster shell, and the reef has now been brought back to a standardized height. In effect, the reef is now back to functioning as a leaky dam, which should lead to a healthier mix of fresh and salt water in the coastal estuary.

We are now monitoring the reef for the next five years to see how oysters respond to the new substrate, and to any changes in salinity that can be attributed to the restoration of the reef. We are already seeing young oysters on the reef, and new patterns of water flow.