Florida Tech’s Ocean Engineering department designed oyster reefs to prevent shore erosion.
The Indian River Lagoon, which spans 156 miles on Florida’s east coast from Ponce de León Inlet in Volusia County to Jupiter Inlet in Palm Beach County, is often regarded as one of the world’s most ecologically diverse estuaries.
But the lagoon is struggling.
Over the years, pollution and coastal construction have wiped out huge numbers of oyster beds, which act as natural reefs that help block wave energy and prevent shoreline erosion. Oysters themselves act as living filters, removing impurities from the water naturally, efficiently and constantly.
Last year, Florida Tech, Brevard County and the Brevard Zoo partnered to create the Living Shoreline project in an effort to restore oyster beds to the Indian River Lagoon. This spring, the first Living Shoreline project was established along a section of the lagoon in Indialantic, which will serve as the model for future oyster reef build outs in other parts of the estuary.
Robert Weaver, associate professor of Ocean Engineering and his students performed physical model simulations of oyster reef breakwaters and revetments at Florida Tech’s Coastal Engineering Lab to establish the design and performance of the structures. The reefs are made from long, mesh bags containing real oyster shells that attract oyster larva to attach and make a home there.
In May, Brevard Zoo volunteers recently placed the engineered breakwaters and revetments into the lagoon near the shoreline where they should collect enough living oysters and other creatures to help prevent further erosion along the banks. The oyster reefs work by dissipating incoming waves and diminishing the waves’ power to pull sediment from the shore.
“The installation was a great opportunity to see coastal engineering and community engagement in action,” said Weaver.