The surprising benefits of oysters (and no, it's not what you're thinking) | 2/19/2018 | Staff
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Oysters can do a lot more than they’re given credit for.

Think of oysters, and what comes to mind? You'll probably picture a plate of seafood with a generous squeeze of lemon, or you might think of oysters' reputation as an aphrodisiac. But oysters have many talents beyond their famed gastronomic (and other) qualities.

Oysters - Ecosystems - Ways - Water - Animals

Oysters also help coastal ecosystems in many different ways, from cleaning the water to sheltering other animals. Yet despite their usefulness, newly published research led by the Nature Conservancy shows that more than 90% of Australia's shellfish reefs have been lost since European settlement. Unless they can be restored, we risk missing out on their many benefits.

Oysters are multi-talented marine warriors with an impressive bag of tricks up their calcareous sleeves. Their filter-feeding improves water quality and nutrient cycling. They provide safe haven for young fish and small invertebrates, reduce coastal erosion, and even soak up carbon.

Talents - Restoration - Australia - Oyster - Reefs

To capture these hidden talents, restoration of Australia's once abundant oyster reefs is on the national agenda, culminating in the Southern Hemisphere's largest oyster reef restoration project, currently underway in South Australia. The latest research in this area will be showcased this week at a conference in Adelaide.

Life is tough for animals living on intertidal rocky shores, such as snails and crabs. These animals experience extreme temperature swings during low tide, and are vulnerable to marine predators during high tide.

Oysters - Shelter - Invertebrates - Refuge - Weather

But oysters can help, by providing shelter for small invertebrates, giving them refuge from both weather and predators. The convoluted shells of oysters cast shade and trap moisture during low tide. This buffers the extremities of climate that animals' experience, with temperatures up to 10℃ cooler than adjacent habitat during hot days.

At the landscape scale, oysters remove the influence that changes in climate over latitude have on invertebrate communities. In dampening the extremities...
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