JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – You might not even notice it looking at certain shorelines along Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island, south of Amelia Island, but salt marsh erosion is a glaring problem to ecological experts, some of whom, have spent the last two years designing a solution to reverse erosion in parts of the national park.
Members of the University of North Florida shoreline restoration research team, National Park Service, Timucuan Parks Foundation and St. Johns Water Management District spent the day installing specially made domes that will hopefully rebuild what’s been lost.
They’ve deployed the largest pervious oyster shell habitat structure, POSH, shoreline restoration project in the area to date.
The team of researchers and volunteers worked to install nearly 150 POSH structures to assist in restoring oyster reefs, fighting erosion, rebuilding fish populations, saving the marshes and reducing the loss of historic coastal communities and artifacts at the plantation.
Hunter Mathews, a graduate student at UNF and assistant researcher on the project, explained how the domes are made.
“It’s essentially just oyster shells bound together by a thin layer of pouring cement into the shape of a dome,” Mathews said.
”The idea is you put these structures out, they recruit oysters which continue to build on them and increase the overall size building a healthy oyster reef and reducing erosion,” said Kelly Smith, an associate professor at UNF and principal investigator for the project.
Smith said the major cause of the erosion on the plantation is wakes caused by boaters.
“I think boaters need to consider the impact they have on the environment they are driving back and perhaps the impact their wakes have on these healthy environments,” Smith said.
The team of researchers and volunteers is focusing on two portions of the shoreline in the national park along Fort George River.
Oysters play a critical part in the ecosystem.
“Oysters are excellent at water filtration, doing an ecological service to clean the waters out,” explained Steven Kidd, chief of science and resource management with Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.
He said 70% of fish and shellfish that are harvested spent time in estuaries like the ones at the national park.
Researchers will now study the growth generated by the concrete structures.