Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. --
According to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point environmental specialist’s, 80 years ago the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) once thrived along the Neuse River near what is now Cherry Point. However since that time, the local Eastern oyster population has gradually faded away.
Thanks to a local partnership between Cherry Point Environmental Affairs Department (EAD) and Duke University, a study by Duke is determining the feasibility of re-introducing the once native oyster species back into this section of the Neuse River.
The partnership is a result of a project started by Duke University called Duke Restore. Duke Restore is a new initiative focused on building partnerships within the academic community as well as with government and non-governmental organizations (NGO). The overall goal is to build ecosystems which benefit people and nature. The project has multiple teams focused on different themes such as living shorelines and blue carbon. The project incorporates scientific design and mentorship expertise as well as hands-on training for younger scientists.
Currently Duke University has placed dozens of settlement plates along various sections of the shoreline. According to Jessica Guilianelli, the plates are used to test if the environment along the Neuse River would foster the growth of juvenile Eastern oysters and allow them to survive and thrive. The plates themselves contain juvenile oysters; if the oysters grow, and attract other oysters to the area, this could be a positive indicator.
Cherry Point’s partnership with Duke University is part of a much larger, ongoing project on the installation. More than 5,000 linear feet of shoreline along the Neuse River received severe damage during Hurricane Florence in 2018. Since that time, Cherry Point EAD has been working to secure funding to repair the damage and make extensive improvements to the shoreline’s design that will last for generations. EAD is planning to construct a living shoreline, a combination of an offshore sill and native vegetation that maximizes shoreline protection and generates ecological benefits such as carbon storage and essential habitats for vertebrates, such as fish, and invertebrates, such as shellfish.
Cherry Point EAD records show the Neuse River shoreline has suffered significant erosion, receding more than 20 feet in some locations since 1994. The new shoreline layout will incorporate unique designs that will allow the shoreline to accumulate sediment material as opposed to continual erosion.
Cherry Point EAD Natural Resources Manager Jessica Guilianelli stated the project paves the way for a shoreline that protects the infrastructure, is environmentally conscious, and sets the installation up for success for decades to come.