In the Sydney Harbour region, habitat restoration efforts are gaining momentum, with a current focus on enhancing the establishment of habitat-forming oyster beds and seaweeds to both natural and artificial hard substrata.
However, the most extensive habitats within the harbour are soft and sandy sediments, which provide key ecosystem functions such as recycling excess nutrients, and are home to large bivalve populations. Many of these habitats remain contaminated from historical inputs of heavy metals and other pollutants and have suffered damage through boat traffic and moorings.
This theme will focus on restoring soft-sediment habitats and associated shellfish beds, to improve the functional and overall health of the harbour and to support and develop recreational fisheries resources.
The latest work from the Sydney Harbour Research Program, an investigation of how interactions between bivalves and microbes contribute to sediment health, is being led by SHRP scientists Assoc. Prof. Paul Gribben (UNSW), Prof. Emma Johnston (UNSW), Dr. Katherine Dafforn (UMQ), A/Prof Ross Coleman (USYD), Dr. Ana Vila Concejo (UNSW), Prof. Justin Seymour (UTS), and A/Prof Maurizio Labbate (UTS).
Our work links to many agencies and scientists around SIMS and the Harbour Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW Department of Primary Industries and the Nature Conservancy.
In collaboration with researchers at the University of Sydney this project will develop techniques for re-establishing the once plentiful oyster beds within Sydney Harbour. Oyster beds are the kidneys of estuarine waterways clarifying water and removing excess nutrients. Rehabilitation of oyster beds will improve the health of the Harbour, enhance biodiversity of invertebrates and fish in the harbour.
This research is being supported by the Maple Brown Foundation and a 2019 ARC research grant.
Industrial inputs to Sydney Harbour have been regulated since the 1970s, but a legacy of pollution still remains in the sediments, and is supplemented by stormwater. Much of the waterway therefore remains degraded and the animals have not returned to levels that could start to improve sediment and water quality. This project aims to improve the health of urban waterways by ‘kickstarting’ sediment communities to assist in recovery.
This research involves collaborators from UNSW, UTS, CSIRO and OEH, and is being supported by the Ian Potter Foundation and the Maple Brown Foundation.