Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Louisiana
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Chowdhury MSN, La Peyre MK, Coen LD, Morris RL, Luckenbach MW, Ysebaert T, Walles B, Smaal AC. 2021. Ecological engineering with oysters enhances coastal resilience efforts. Ecological Engineering 169:106320


Coastal areas are especially vulnerable to habitat loss, sea-level rise, and other climate change effects. Oyster-dominated eco-engineered reefs have been promoted as integral components of engineered habitats enhancing coastal resilience through provision of numerous ecological, morphological, and socio-economic services. However, the assessed ‘success’ of these eco-engineered oyster reefs remains variable across projects and locations, with their general efficacy in promoting coastal resilience, along with related services, often mixed at best. Understanding factors influencing the success of these eco-engineered habitats as valuable coastal management tools could greatly inform related future efforts. Here, we review past studies incorporating reef-building oysters for coastal resilience and enhanced ecosystem services. Our aims are to better understand their utility and limitations, along with critical knowledge gaps to better advance future applicability. Success depends largely on site selection, informed by physical, chemical and biological factors, and adjacent habitats and bottom types. Better understanding of oyster metapopulation dynamics, tolerance and adaptation to changing conditions, and interactions with adjacent habitats will help to better identify suitable locations, and design more effective eco-engineered reefs. These eco-engineered reefs however provide a useful tool to assist in developing coastal resilience in the face of climate change and sea level rise.