I’ve been working with Molly Bost to compare oyster reef growth and composition among tidal and landscape settings. Our data set is composed of 12 natural reefs and this week we sampled the first oyster to colonize each reef to learn how old they are. That oyster is identified by taking a core through the living reef and sifting through shells at the base of the reef to find an intact oyster (both valves). We send a piece of that shell to NOSAMS for radiocarbon dating. The oldest living reef we have sampled so far is about 900 years and the thickness of that reef was 1.15 m. We have other reefs in our study that are twice as thick. Earlier this week I read in EOS that a 2,674-year old North Carolina Bald Cypress Tree was discovered in the Black River. Perhaps some of our oyster reefs are older than that nearby Cypress Tree?
That first oyster to grow in the area, sampled at the base of the reef, was a true visionary. It probably never expected a reef like the one shown below would form on top of it. It belongs in a museum, but will be converted into carbon dioxide instead. It just keeps giving.