Aquatic reefs are complex, diverse communities made of densely packed oysters. Healthy reefs form when oyster larvae attach to adult oysters, and layers of oysters grow upward and outward.
Hundreds of aquatic animals find food and shelter in oyster reefs. With their many nooks and crannies, reefs provide a safe haven for small fish and invertebrates to hide from predators. Larger species, including white perch, striped bass and blue crabs, visit reefs to breed and find food.
Reefs are the largest source of hard surface on the Bay's bottom, which is otherwise mostly covered with soft sediment. Oyster larvae, sponges and barnacles are just a few of the many invertebrates that live attached to hard surfaces.
Piers, rocks, jetties, wrecks and pilings are similar to aquatic reefs. They provide hard surfaces for invertebrates and attract larger predators in search of food.
Click on the images below to learn about some of the critters that live on the Chesapeake Bay's aquatic reefs and pilings.