How We Work

Rivers and Bays

“Thanks to Conservancy supporters, this year we generated great new momentum for oyster restoration.”

Every cell in your body and every plant and animal needs water to survive. Water enriches habitats, grows our food and drives our economy. Restoring natural filters such as forests and oyster reefs not only helps clean our water, but can also reduce climate impacts.

Castle Defense

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge suffered serious damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, especially along the shorelines of Tom’s Cove and Assateague Bay. In May, volunteers helped The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assemble nearly 14,000 oyster castles to restore keystone habitat and make both shorelines more resilient to future storms.

The labor-intensive project involved arranging the 30-pound concrete castles into interlocking seven-foot arrays that provide a foundation on which juvenile oysters can attach and build. Living oyster reefs provide vital habitat for fish and crabs, and they can grow quickly enough to outpace rising seas and reduce the punching power of waves. While feeding, a single adult oyster can clean up to 50 gallons of water every day.

Funding for Filters

Once so plentiful that scientists say they could filter the entire Chesapeake Bay in a week, our native oyster has teetered on the brink of extinction since the 1930s. But over the last few years in Virginia and Maryland, the Conservancy has engaged in the largest oyster restoration efforts on the planet.

“Thanks to Conservancy supporters, this year we generated great new momentum for oyster restoration,” says Andy Lacatell, who directs our work in Chesapeake tributaries. Our cost-share with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leveraged $2 million to create 25 acres of new reef in the Piankatank River in 2017 — doubling the area we completed in summer 2015.