Our last Blog (“It’s a Wonderful World) promised some hard science numbers to back up our points about all the wonderful things oysters do for water quality. While numbers can be boring, we will credit what follows to the interesting content provided in the “E-Tidings” emails from Susan Maples at VIMS. Her contact should you want to subscribe is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

One of the featured articles in February was about loss of eelgrass beds in the Chesapeake Bay. Some excerpts from the eelgrass study -

A new study led by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science links a long-term decline in Chesapeake Bay’s eelgrass beds to both deteriorating water quality and rising summertime temperatures. It also shows that loss of the habitat and other benefits that eelgrass provides comes at a staggering ecological and economic cost.

Orth…says, “It’s a classic case of ‘habitat squeeze.’ Declining water clarity has cut eelgrass cover in half within deeper beds during the last two decades, so that the mean depth of eelgrass beds is now almost 5 inches shallower [where it is also warmer].”

Analysis puts resulting economic losses at $1-2 billion in Chesapeake Bay alone

Where does ReadyReef fit in with eelgrass losses? Our reef’s oysters eat algae (a turbidity contributor) and they help prevent shoreline erosion, which otherwise releases sediments into the water column to further cloud the water.

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While not eelgrass in this shallow water, Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) thrives in the protective lee of reefs.

Do you think there are lots of marine critters in this growth?

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SAVs also like to strike on the reefs, what the oysters don’t eat first anyway.

Another VIMs E-Tidings concerned the loss of Marsh Grasses- VIMS is “tracking the main destructive processes in marshes—the conversion of vegetated areas to open water, and the loss of sediment,…Together these changes control the long-term fate of the marsh."

Saltmarshes worldwide are being lost to sea-level rise, erosion, and land-use changes. These marshes protect the coast against storms and erosion, filter pollution, and provide habitat for fish and shellfish.

"Think of a marsh as similar to a savings account, with sediment as the principal…Every new deposit of sediment is like interest added to the principal, and every sediment loss is like money spent. If a marsh is gaining sediment, it can tolerate some withdrawals, and the budget will still be in the black. If it’s losing sediment, that marsh is in the red. Its sediment either gets replenished by natural processes or human intervention, or eventually the principal will all be spent." That phrase “land-use changes” sounds obtuse, but it can be as simple as converting a living shoreline into a riprap revetment for a vacation home. This phrase should now sound ominous, as the marsh grass loss in this case is just because of ignorance about the very ecology the home owner really wants to get closer to and enjoy. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot inadvertently!

It is actually gratifying to see nature trying to put ReadyReef out of business. At almost every marsh toe (shoreward edge) where there is an eroded escarpment, you can find mussels and oysters trying to establish themselves in the marsh grass peat. This intertidal area is part of their original habitat. Unfortunately, they cannot armor up the peat before wave energy scours them out as soon as they outgrow their weak hold. It is a Catch 22: the marsh grass needs the oysters to protect it from wave action, but the oysters need to be protected to get started in the marsh peat.

Enter our Hero, the Ready Reef: wall to wall and just enough tall to break up the vicious circle. The heavy and hard concrete substrate supporting the oyster shell veneer represents at least 15 years of “cemented shell” or “oyster rock” reef development…achieved instantly upon install.

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Oysters love to settle on our reef surfaces.

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Aquarium at the Virginia Living Museum showing a reef before oyster strike and one with a three year growth on it.