Ecosystem services provided by oyster projects funded by MASGC
Excessive nutrients and loss of habitat are two types of stress placed on coastal ecosystems. Stormwater runoff from within watersheds is a recognized source nutrient pollution within estuaries. Nutrients such as nitrogen can lead to periodic hypoxic conditions and prevent the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). Loss of SAVs and the loss of shoreline habitat due to shoreline development has resulted in a gradual decline of habitat for living marine resources.
Oyster gardening has been a successful restoration and environmental stewardship program in the Mobile Bay estuary since 2002. Over the last four years oyster farming has taken root in Alabama and now provides jobs and high quality oysters for consumers. Ecosystem services like regulating services and habitat services are secondary benefits from oyster gardening and oyster farming. Documenting these services using valid economic values provide a more accurate representation of the importance of oysters and the role they play in our estuaries.
Combining the results of the oyster gardening restoration-focused program and the commercial off-bottom oyster farming program, the projects conservatively resulted in nearly $300,000 ecosystem services. There were 19,915 pounds of nitrogen removed from the local coastal ecosystems in Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound; a service valued at $117,500. Additionally, these projects created critical habitat for a number of species that are commercially and/or recreationally important. Since the projects began, they collectively provided almost $182,000 in habitat benefit.
Oysters create habitat and serve a vital role in removing nutrients estuarine environments. In addition to the value of farmed oysters for the consumer, oyster farming and oyster gardening provide habitat and remove nitrogen from the water. (2014)