The Big Bend region of Florida, part of which is located in Levy County, contains one of North America’s most pristine coastlines, with extensive seagrass meadows, valuable fisheries, and healthy wildlife populations. The region also supports productive economic industries such as shellfish fisheries (shrimp and oyster) and hard clam aquaculture. The UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key is committed to protecting the natural resources of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Most recently, researchers at UF/IFAS received an $8.3 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore the shrinking oyster reefs and help coastal ecosystems and economies become more resilient in the face of climate change. In less than 30 years, the 3,000-year-old oyster reefs off the Big Bend coastline have declined by 88 percent. The goal of this project is to encourage new oysters to recolonize areas where reefs have degraded by installing limestone boulders covered in oyster and clam shell that will attract new oysters.
Aerial photo of Cedar Key, Florida. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones