A series of small-scale restoration efforts are underway for a species that most Americans don't even realize needs saving: oysters.

A 2011 study published in the journal BioScience declared wild oysters "functionally extinct," as "oyster reefs are at less than 10 percent of their prior abundance in most bays ... and ecoregions" and "lack any significant ecosystem role."

In past centuries, that ecosystem role has been a significant one: besides tasting good, oysters also improve water quality – a single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day – and protect coastlines by functioning as speed bumps to thwart waves during storms.

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