Reefs could be replenished with electric oysters

electric oysters image
CC BY 3.0 norfolkdistrict and planetc1

Okay, so the oysters aren't really electric, but researchers have discovered that using electrically-charged sea water can help to regrow oyster reefs.

The massive decline in oyster reef over the last hundred years or so isn't just affecting seafood lovers, but also the entire ecological systems that depend on these important ocean habitats. And while given time, these reefs could eventually replenish themselves, the work of some researchers at Texas A&M Corpus Christi could lead to more rapid regrowth and healthier marine ecosystems.

According to information from the University, oyster reefs in the Gulf of Mexico have declined almost 90% over the last 130 years, which has taken a toll on the industries that depend on them, as well as the people relying on those habitats for food and livelihood. In addition, these humble little marine creatures contribute a great deal toward the overall health of the local ocean environment.

"Oysters are an important ecological and economic resource. They create habitats for fish and shellfish, filter and clean bay waters, protect shorelines from erosion, and are a valued commercial fishery element." - Dr. Paul Zimba, Director of the Center for Coastal Studies at A&M-Corpus Christi

The new research, which builds on previous work using electricity to help regrow oyster reefs, centered on finding the optimum current to stimulate growth of an artificial reef substrate in the laboratory.

"Zimba’s team evaluated polarity, voltage, and electrical current to identify the conditions under which artificial oyster or hard bottom substrate habitat could be created, and to determine correct current type and voltage to maximize reef formation. Zimba found that the growth was strongly affected by current type and polarity, making it important to have just the right mix. Once they were able to perfect the formation of artificial reef in a laboratory setting, they moved their work to the field. A site in Corpus Christi Bay was used to test this system consisting of structures built from rebar and charged them using solar power." - Texas A&M

The team found that after just a single month, a "solid community" was covering the original material, and no negative impact was found from the electrical current on either aquatic or avian populations, which led the researchers to believe that the process has "a massive potential for restoration of oyster and coral reef habitats".

Note: As far as this author can tell, no electric oysters were created or harmed with this method.

Tags: Oceans | Technology