The ocean off the coast of New York once had a bivalve population of TRILLIONS that once protected the area from storm surges stabilized the shoreline from Washington to Boston.
The best place for oysters is in the margin between saltwater and freshwater, where the river meets the sea, and New York’s harbor area is filled with such places. Until the European arrived and started harvesting them, oysters themselves feasted on the huge algae blooms in that area. Layer after layers of oyster shells built up for more than 7,000 years, resulting in enormous underwater reefs around nearly every shoreline, forming a natural levee.
They not only protected the land, they cleaned the water, since a single oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day. This allowed marsh grasses to grow, which also held the shores together, due to their extensive root structure.
But not only did the early colonists eat them, later New York residents mined the oyster beds and burned them for lime or crushed them for road beds.
In the October 30th edition of the New York Times, Paul Greenberg writes: "What is fairly certain is that storms like Sandy are going to grow stronger and more frequent, and our shorelines will become more vulnerable. For the present storm, all we could do was stock up on canned goods and fill up our bathtubs. But for the storms to come, we’d better start planting a lot more oysters."