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New York City Project Uses Oyster Shells to Prevent Erosion and Flooding

New York, NY – New York City is taking a step towards a “climate-proof future” with the help of disposed oyster shells from the many restaurants of the city. New York’s City’s shoreline used to be protected by thousands of acres of undersea reefs, but over the years the wall has eroded. Scientists have come up with an idea to bring that back using leftover oyster shells from plastic bins in Brooklyn’s Domino Park promenade.

To this day, there are reportedly 1.8 million pounds of the oyster shells in these bins that are then “cleaned, cured in the sun and ‘set’ with microscopic larvae,” according to Also known as the Billion Oyster Project, the goal is to give baby oysters a home while also building a wall that will help protect the shoreline from crashing waves, erosion and prevent coastal flooding. The project was founded by Urban Assembly New York Harbor School and works with local restaurants, schools and volunteers to create a natural wall by the year 2035. 

Oyster reefs used to spread across 220,000 acres of the city’s coastline and contributed greatly to the flood-mitigation system before the 20th century. Once they were harvested for food, the oyster business boomed and a billion oysters were being taken out of the reefs every year at the turn of the century. Oysters were being sold in plenty from stands to restaurants. Used shells were then converted to building the city and before they knew it, the hardening shoreline made the an inhospitable environment for marine life and the stands were closed down in 1920

With NYC being an island with little to no hurricane protection, flooding of the lower parts of the city and subways is a huge problem. The oysters aren’t going to be a perfect solution to the flooding problem. According to Harbor school aquaculture teacher and project founder Pete Malinowski, “…they’re a critical part of the many different interventions that need to happen.” 

Human engineering will give the creatures a much needed boost in the fight to protect the shorelines. “Getting back to that point will take a lot more than a billion oysters, and it also takes hundreds of years for reefs to grow to that size,” says Malinowski

Scientists are hoping the project will help New Yorkers understand the ever-growing climate change problem as well as the city’s natural environment. 

“The key to solving these challenges of climate change is changing human behavior, and humans aren’t going to change their behavior without a direct connection to the natural world,” says Malinowski

Using a natural-based reef is better for an environmental and economic investment rather than using an artificial solution. 

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