Running Tide Oyster Reef Restoration Monitoring Project
SeaTrees has partnered with Running Tide to restore degraded coastal habitat in Broad Cove, off the coast of Yarmouth, Maine. Running Tide is a global ocean health company that specializes in state-of-the-art ecosystem monitoring using various technologies, like environmental DNA (eDNA), remote underwater cameras, and real-time monitoring buoys that take hourly measurements of dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, pH, chlorophyll-a, and turbidity and transmit this information via satellite.
A Fragile Ecosystem
Casco Bay used to be home to naturally occurring oyster beds, as evidenced by large shell middens along the coast of Maine. Like much of the world’s oyster reefs, Maine’s suffered from a combination of pollution and overharvesting. As a result, Casco Bay lost a key species – a pillar of the marine ecosystem – and oyster restoration helps bring their functions back.
According to Friends of Casco Bay, the coastal ecosystem faces threats of increasing change caused by human activity including nitrogen pollution, ocean and coastal acidification, climate chaos, and stormwater pollution. These challenges are being driven by polluted runoff, boater sewage, and the threat of oil spills. Perhaps most daunting are the impacts of climate change and the changing chemistry of the Bay itself.
Oysters play a crucial role in marine ecosystems for a multitude of reasons. These filter-feeding bivalves contribute to improved water quality and nutrient cycling, offer a secure haven for young fish and small invertebrates, and aid in mitigating coastal erosion.
By drawing in suspended particles from the water column and depositing them onto the seafloor, oysters enhance water clarity. Comparable to efficient pool pumps, a single oyster can filter up to 100 liters of water per day. When this filtration capacity is extrapolated to the millions of oysters within a reef, they emerge as the coast's equivalent of kidneys, effectively cleansing entire estuaries in a matter of days.
On a larger scale, oysters also exert a stabilizing influence on invertebrate communities, mitigating the impact of climate change across different latitudes, and providing intertidal species with a window of opportunity to adapt to the challenges of climate change.
Running Tide will be monitoring the project site with a real-time sensor buoy, monthly eDNA sampling, and a real time video and camera system to assess changes in water quality and biodiversity to calculate ecosystem improvements driven by the oysters. Running Tide will visit the project site each month (except during January-March) to sample oysters, perform buoy calibration, take eDNA samples, and survey the site (photo/video). Data collected during these visits will be run through QA/QC and then be used to calculate ecosystem services, document growth and water quality conditions at the site, and quantify changes in biodiversity.
- Report on levels of biodiversity enhancement attained via eDNA and photo/video monitoring
- Calculate the amount of nutrients removed during the project
- Calculate the volume of water filtered by the oysters on the site and contributing to improvements in water quality
Running Tide marine technicians will make monthly visits to the site to do buoy calibration, sample oysters, take eDNA samples, and recover and replace the memory card and battery in the underwater GoPro. Data will be run through QA/QC by RunningTide scientists, and made available on the proprietary dashboard to document the improvements to water quality and biodiversity as a result of these technologies. If successful, these various monitoring technologies could be applied to a range of coastal restoration project areas, including mangrove, seagrass, kelp and coral reef restoration.
Running Tide is a global ocean health company. Our multidisciplinary team of world-class scientists, engineers, and maritime operators design and implement nature-based interventions that rebalance Earth’s carbon cycle, decarbonize global supply chains, restore marine ecosystems, and revitalize coastal communities. Regardless of the intervention or expected project impact, Running Tide understands the ever-present and critical requirement to closely monitor changing ecological conditions via scalable and scientifically robust methods. Doing so is necessary to track changes in ecosystem health over time and provide a foundation of data that can adaptively guide project development and restoration success.
This project provides long-term employment for the local community. This in turn drives other Sustainable Development benefits.