Actively restoring oyster reefs—beyond simply protecting them from harvest—can create big payoffs for habitat quality and the other species that flock to them. A new study from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), published June 10 in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series , compared restored, protected and harvested areas using photos and video footage from roughly 200 sites. Roughly a quarter of Maryland’s oyster habitat lies protected in oyster sanctuaries. But only a small fraction of those sanctuaries have undergone full-scale restorations, with reconstructed reefs and new live oyster plantings. The new paper offers an easier way to determine if those restorations are paying off. “You’ve got to actively restore something,” said Keira Heggie, lead author of the study and a technician in SERC’s Fisheries Conservation Lab . “But if you actively restore something and then let it go by its wayside, then you’re not going to know exactly if it’s still doing well.” The results also give a clear picture of restoration’s benefits, which have seen hot debate in recent years. “There are people who feel like the restoration’s really working, and there’s other people who feel like it’s a lot of money that you’re throwing in […]

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