A collaborative effort to strengthen native oyster populations

Restoration Effort at Florida's Lake Wort

Contractors use a crane to lift the limestone rock over the mangroves and place it along the shoreline. Photo by FWC staff.

A collaborative effort to strengthen native oyster populations within the shallow 100-acre Lake Worth Cove estuary at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park has recently been completed. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and volunteers from the West Palm Beach Fishing Club and John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, placed 120 tons of native limestone to restore oyster habitat. Oysters provide numerous ecological benefits, including improvement of water quality, habitat and food for wildlife, and erosion control.

Surveys in the cove have found that hard surfaces, such as pilings and mangrove roots, support much greater densities of oysters than the estuary bottom. This led park managers to believe that the low densities of oysters may be due, in part, to limited hard substrate. A plan was developed to add hard substrate (limestone) to the shoreline at appropriate depths for oysters to colonize. However, the project faced a major challenge because the cove is surrounded by a mangrove fringe with no boat access. The only way to place the rock on the shoreline without causing damage to the mangrove shoreline was by airlifting it over the mangroves by crane. The next challenge was to move the rock to the planned locations and to stack it at the appropriate depths to maximize oyster recruitment. Volunteers to the rescue! Thanks to everyone’s hard work the limestone rock is now resting in its final destination and has already recruited a significant number of oysters that will serve to benefit water quality and wildlife usage within John D. MacArthur State Park and the greater Lake Worth Lagoon.