On Saturday, April 9, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant held a volunteer bagging event with the Burton 4-H Center to help with finalizing the living shoreline on Tybee Island. Nearly 50 volunteers showed up and placed shelled oysters into almost 3,000 marine-safe plastic bags, about a third of the bags needed to complete a living shoreline. Volunteers came from extension groups, 4-H organizations and Georgia Southern University. Many residents of Tybee Island also came out to assist the 4-H center in its effort to reduce the erosion of the creek bank.
Living shorelines help stabilize eroding banks and alleviate sea level rise. These bagged shells create a new habitat for wild oysters and encourage the creation of new oyster reefs, which improve the wildlife habitat along the shoreline. In fact, an oyster reef can act as a food source, provide habitat for over 70 aquatic species and respond to rising sea levels by moving up with the water level.
The hope is to have all of the oysters bagged and in place in time for new oysters, called “spat,” to settle into their new habitat. It takes about two to three years for an oyster reef to become fully established, but the students who visit the Burton 4-H Center should start seeing new oysters along the tops of the bags this winter.