For coastal communities, such as those on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, water quality and the overall health of coastal systems has been deteriorating due to nitrogen pollution, which can come from septic systems, fertilizers, and atmospheric deposition.
Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth, but excess nitrogen caught in runoff water causes harmful algal blooms. Oysters help mitigate the effects of nitrogen pollution as they consume algae during growth, convert some of the nitrogen stored in algal blooms to biomass, and release the rest in particulate form to the sediments where microbial processes can convert it into harmless nitrogen gas.
About this resource
This graphic was developed as part of a research project in Cape Cod exploring how much nitrogen is removed from coastal waters by common oyster aquaculture methods, and what culturing practices should be adopted to maximize benefits for water quality. The graphic was developed for use on a sign at Waquoit Bay NERR and can be easily modified for use presentations and educational materials. For example, the images have been used in this animated explainer video.