Sydney rolls out welcome mat for sea life

Sydney is rolling out the welcome mat for sea creatures along its picturesque foreshore, with specially designed flower pots and mats creating new habitats for marine life.

Under the project managed by the City of Sydney, 60 new concrete pots will be attached to seawalls in Sydney Harbour to attract vulnerable marine life back into our popular waterways.

It follows the success of a recent Glebe foreshore trial project that saw at least 28 new and unique marine species recorded in Blackwattle Bay using underwater cameras purchased with an $11,000 grant from the City, including star fish, crabs, sea snails, algae and fish varieties, such as yellowfin bream.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the extension of the project would build on the success of the original 2014 research that exceeded scientists’ expectations.

“Sydney Harbour is one of the world’s greatest and most beautiful harbours, and we need to protect and grow its unique and diverse marine life.”

“We’re aiming to create a new aquatic corridor along Sydney’s seawall foreshore from Glebe to Farm Cove and through to Elizabeth Bay, providing a connected channel of manmade rockpools for vulnerable marine life,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Twenty of the seawall pots have been lined with a mat made from natural coconut fibre that resembles an everyday door mat. Researchers hope this material will create an inviting habitat and attract more fish to the harbour.

“This is a simple yet highly innovative project to increase biodiversity in Sydney’s city waterways and create a more resilient ecosystem.

“More than 50 per cent of Sydney’s natural foreshore has already been replaced by man-made seawalls. The Blackwattle Bay project shows that clever engineering can have positive outcomes.

CoS Seawall pots _ Rebecca Morris

The City of Sydney will manage the project that’s supported by the Sydney Coastal Councils Group through funding from the Australian government. The $104,000 grant brings together partner organisations from the University of Sydney’s Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities and the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust.

Sydney University marine ecologist Rebecca Morris will continue her work from the original trial to monitor the new pots installed along seawalls at Glebe Foreshore Walk West, Farm Cove at the Royal Botanic Gardens and Beare Park in Elizabeth Bay, connecting to one of the few remaining natural coastal foreshores at Mrs Maquaries Chair.

“The original project saw a sharp increase in the variety of marine organisms colonising the flowerpots. We’re using the new pots and additional locations to fill in our knowledge gaps from the first project to see if we can further increase the effectiveness of the seawall pots and enhance biodiversity.

“This project has already shown that if we take into account the marine environment during the planning stage, some of the negative impacts on marine diversity caused by the development of the Sydney Harbour foreshore could be mitigated.

“It’s hoped that eco-engineering projects like the flowerpots will help rehabilitate biodiversity in areas where natural shores have been replaced because of foreshore development.”

CoS Seawall pots in Farm Cove

City of Sydney Urban Ecology Co-ordinator, Sophie Golding, said the new trial will also be made accessible to the general public, with talks and tours run by the Royal Botanic Gardens and school tours for local students.

“Sydney University and the Botanic Gardens will be running hands-on, interactive school outreach days and integrating the project details into existing tours that will be enjoyed by up to 600 students. There will be talks, education days and tours of the forshore sites for all members of the community.

An ecological engineering seminar on 26 May will share project findings with local councils, architects, developers and foreshore landowners and managers, with talks from researchers and the World Harbour Project engaged in eco-engineering projects in Sydney Harbour.

Free walking tours of the Glebe foreshore will be held on 17 March and 9 April.