MA Study to See if Oysters Improve Water Quality

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ecoRI.org: The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST) researchers were recently awarded $525,967 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine whether the development of oyster colonies can restore estuaries and salt ponds endangered by high nitrogen levels.

UMass Dartmouth has partnered with the Westport River Watershed Alliance (WRWA) on this project. The project will use the waters of Cockeast Pond as a natural laboratory and will quantify the utility of oysters in removing excess nitrogen to promote estuarine restoration. WRWA has joined the team to enhance outreach efforts to other municipalities.

This project follows a lengthy study by SMAST and WRWA on the conditions in Cockeast Pond, where the water quality has degraded significantly during the past decades. The first stage of the project will determine if the oysters will survive in the pond’s fluctuating temperature and salinity conditions, and then will measure reductions in nitrogen pollution and the corresponding rebounding of native aquatic species.

The grant is part of a $4.6 million program to develop innovative, cost-effective strategies to protect coastal waters in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The projects are intended to identify, test and promote effective regional approaches in critical areas, such as water monitoring, watershed planning, nutrient and/or septic management, and resilience to climate change.

Read more about the grant to improve water quality through oyster production in Massachusetts.