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Bringing back life with living walls

living walls

Seaweed and animal species long missing from manmade shorelines are set to return to Rushcutters Bay in Sydney thanks to a new ‘living seawall’.

The living seawall of 90 habitat panels runs along two 12-metre stretches of the foreshore, providing local marine life with nooks and crevices to live in and encouraging more seaweed and animal species to return.

The panels were installed by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS), with support from the City of Sydney, following the success of projects in other locations across Sydney Harbour.

Co-leader of the SIMS Living Seawalls project, Associate Professor Melanie Bishop, said the aim was to bring back marine life to the manmade seawalls that make up half of Sydney Harbour’s shoreline, increase biodiversity and improve water quality.

“More than 50 per cent of the Sydney Harbour shoreline is made up of seawalls and research shows these seawalls do not support biodiversity in the same way as natural shorelines,” Associate Professor Bishop said.

“We’re increasing biodiversity by bringing back missing microhabitats such as rock pools and crevices. These will provide more space for barnacles and seaweeds to live, while small fish, snails and crabs will be able to hide inside the holes and crevices.”

“These living seawalls have enhanced biodiversity, bringing species back to the shoreline,” Associate Professor Bishop said.

“The numbers and types of species found on the panels is greater than in nearby manmade shorelines – and they match the numbers found along natural shorelines. It’s also provided a welcome boost for recreational fishing.

The project has attracted local and international attention, with SIMS receiving orders for the panels from councils in Sydney and from governments and organisations overseas.

The institute worked with design studio Reef Design Lab to develop and produce the panels from a 3D printed mould.

Image: Sydney Institute of Marine Science

This article was first published in The Fence magazine.

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