How Oysters Protect Cities

We need to anything and everything to mitigate the impacts of climate change, some solutions are global and others are local. In the United States there’s a growing movement to grow oysters along coastal areas that previous generations destroyed. New York City is one such place, as is New Orleans. Both cities encouraged shipping practices that hurt oyster production whereas today they’ve realized without the protection oysters bring the city is negatively affected.

Bring on the oysters!

When Orff looked into Staten Island’s predicament, she couldn’t help but notice how much it resembled the situation in other parts of New York City and, for that matter, in coastal cities throughout the world. At scape, she put together a plan, called Living Breakwaters, for protecting and reanimating Staten Island’s coastline. In 2014, the proposal earned the highest score in the billion-dollar Rebuild by Design competition, an Obama Administration initiative that invited designers, engineers, scientists, and planners to build systems for a wetter, warmer world. Orff designed a necklace of sloped rock formations and “reef streets” to be submerged in Raritan Bay, where they would attenuate the energy of waves crashing into the South Shore of Staten Island and serve as habitats for oysters, lobsters, and juvenile fish. The system, which would be largely invisible to the area’s residents, wouldn’t prevent storm water from reaching their sidewalks and streets. But it would lessen the impact, lowering the risk of major damage in future hurricanes while helping people connect with one another and with the ecosystems that sustain them.

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