‘Living Sea Walls’ brings back biodiversity to Sydney Harbor



In view of Sydney’s famous harbor bridge, marine scientist Mariana Meyer Pinto enters dark water, examining a sea wall covered with hexagonal concrete panels.

About 50% of the port’s natural shoreline is replaced by sea walls and piles that do not support biodiversity as much as the natural beach.

Sydney’s Institute of Marine Sciences (SIMS) with the help of scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Macquarie University has developed a solution using three-dimensional concrete panels called the “Living Sewals” project.

Specially designed panels can be re-fitted to existing sea walls, simulating the natural beach ecosystem and not being flattened by fish, algae and invertebrates.

“We have seen a total of more than 90 species colonizing these contrasting panels, and we see 30 to 40 percent of the organisms living on the sea wall panels, and then in the unaltered areas of the sea wall,” said Mayor Pinto, project co-chair. Professor at UNSW.

Over the months, the panels are colonized by marine life, and as many creatures become filter feeders such as oysters and sheds, the water quality of the port improves, Mayor Pinto said. Popular in Australia, the panels are installed in Wales and Singapore.

The project has been selected by the Duke of Cambridge and the Duchess Royal Foundation as one of the 15 finalists for the Earthshot Prize. Mayor Pinto hopes that the coastal structures built in the future will be environmentally sustainable, designed not only for humans but also for nature. “I grew up in the ocean, the ocean is the happiest place for me, so I want my kids to enjoy the ocean when I grow up, for which we need to take care of it a little more.”


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