Could Billions of Oysters Protect us From the Next Big Storm?

National Geographic: Flash flooding in New York City. Sinking coasts in Louisiana. To guard against the effects of climate change, these communities are turning to bivalves.

This year has been a year of record-breaking weather. The summer of 2023 was the hottest in history followed by September being the warmest on record by a wide margin. In New York, it was also the wettest September in over a century. Last month, torrential downpours from Tropical Storm Ophelia caused flash flooding in New York City with almost eight inches of rain falling in some areas, wreaking havoc throughout the city. A sea lion at the Central Park Zoo even was briefly able to swim out of her pool enclosure. 

The summer storm wasn’t the first time the city confronted the danger of rising seas and climate-intensified storms. Twelve years ago, Superstorm Sandy flooded Staten Island. But in the wake of the destruction a visionary idea took hold—to use nature as a storm barrier. 

Deep in coastal harbors and waterways, an unlikely ally has been hiding all long: oysters. These keystone species have many superpowers—including helping to protect shorelines from storm surge and high tides and reduce the impacts of erosion from intense rain.Oyster restoration as a climate adaptation is taking seed globally, from China to Australia. In the U.S, New York and Louisiana are two places where oysters have been deeply woven into the culture and economy for centuries, but now these communities are looking to these vital creatures to help protect their vulnerable coastlines. Read more >>