Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) are ecosystem engineers and the reefs they build provide critical ecosystem services to coastal communities. The widespread loss of oyster reefs and the many ecosystem services they provide has led to the implementation of a series of oyster restoration projects beginning in the early 2000s. Oyster restoration in nearshore areas has been recognized as a potentially important component in the creation of “living shorelines”.
The Oyster Habitat Suitability Index (or HSI) was recently developed to guide restoration efforts by identifying priority areas in Tampa Bay that can support long-term restoration. Environmental factors including sediment, salinity, depth, seagrass, and channel locations help to identify appropriate locations for reef placement. The HSI combines these multiple data layers to create a scored map that indicates locations where restoration may be successful.
An online application provides an opportunity to examine the overall model results from the HSI, as well as individual layers. The information will be helpful for conducting full site assessments for oyster restoration planning and permitting. Visit the website by clicking the button to the right.