Workshop on Synthesizing the Nitrogen Removal Capacity of Oyster Habitats via Denitrification

September 10-11, 2019
The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer Range Future
Boston University
67 Bay State Road, Boston, MA

The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University is pleased to host this Workshop on Synthesizing the Nitrogen Removal Capacity of Oyster Habitats via Denitrification convened by Faculty Research Fellow Prof. Robinson W. Fulweiler.

Apply to attend the workshop

Deadline to apply is Monday, July 22

Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) aquaculture is a thriving and growing business and oyster reef restoration is an ongoing process. In addition to providing jobs, a healthy protein source, and a general economic boon to coastal states, oyster aquaculture has shown promise for improving water quality. Specifically, oysters filter phytoplankton and detritus from the water column and deposit this material to the sediments below, thereby stimulating nitrogen removal in the sediments via denitrification (microbial removal of bioavailable nitrate (NO3) to inert dinitrogen (N2) gas). By stimulating denitrification, oyster aquaculture and other oyster habitats provide a key ecosystem service that may help combat cultural eutrophication. Thus, oyster aquaculture and reef restoration complements traditional nutrient management measures that prevent land-based nutrients from entering a waterbody.

Removal of nitrogen from within the coastal system via oyster stimulated denitrification is a relatively cheap way to augment more traditional land-based nitrogen management techniques and can capture nitrogen from non-point sources. These traits present an opportunity for oyster farming and oyster habitat restoration to generate nitrogen trading credits, increasing economic potential for oyster farmers and new mitigation strategies for managers. Unfortunately, the difficulty in measuring and predicting oyster stimulated denitrification has excluded it in many nitrogen management plans, with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation citing “limitation of the science and associated uncertainties with pollution removal”.

Generally, it appears that oyster farms and reef restoration may enhance nitrogen removal via stimulation of sediment denitrification. However, the results vary, as studies have often focused on quantifying rates of denitrification at only one or two sites, leaving scientists, oyster farmers, and managers unable to move forward with concrete recommendations on how much nitrogen oyster habitats remove. This knowledge gap limits our ability to successfully design and advocate for nitrogen trading credits. In this workshop, we will bring key individuals from different groups together to reduce this knowledge gap.

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The goals of this workshop are to establish working groups on: 1) Identifying the best practice recommendations for quantifying denitrification; 2) Identifying practical pathways, barriers, and possible values to in incorporating oyster-mediated denitrification in nutrient trading schemes and management plans; 3) Identifying public support/opposition to incorporation of oyster-mediated denitrification in nutrient trading schemes and management plans, and opportunities to improve communication between stakeholders.

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