Shellfish like clams and oysters can help restore ocean health and support economic development and food production in coastal communities worldwide.
A scientist at UF/IFAS has partnered with UF research and extension faculty on a $100,000 grant awarded by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) as part of the new Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration (SOAR) Shellfish Growers Resiliency Fund. Through the grant, scientists plan to quantify the ecosystem benefits of bivalve aquaculture, specifically assessing the use of oysters and clams. Researchers also will explore how to integrate shellfish into water quality policies in the state.
“The grant will help pave the way for shellfish aquaculture in Florida,” said Ashley Smyth, an assistant professor of biogeochemistry and soil and water sciences at UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead. “The amount of nitrogen removed by oyster and clam aquaculture in Florida is unknown. Until those data exist, it is difficult to have a direct path for shellfish growers to contribute to water quality restoration and mitigation policies, or to be compensated for the ecosystem services that their products provide.”
Smyth and team will measure nitrogen removal by shellfish farmers, conduct a policy analysis and survey credit buyers and shellfish growers to determine costs of credits by:
- Conducting a survey of shellfish farmers around the state,
- Sampling water at shellfish aquaculture farms along the Gulf Coast,
- Reviewing the current policies around payments for ecosystem services and nutrient trading credits.
“This grant will give us local and statewide data related to the specific role that shellfish aquaculture plays in regulating nutrients,” said Smyth. “This is the information that is needed to accurately compensate shellfish growers for their ecosystem services.”