Center for Innovative Marine Sciences receives $4.5 million in funding

The world’s largest harbour-based marine ecosystem restoration initiative, Seabirds to Seascapes – an initiative led by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment – will receive $6.6 million in funding from the NSW Government as part of the NSW Environment Trust’s new funding initiatives.

Project restoration, which is the biggest element Seabirds Seascapes The initiative and will focus on Sydney Harbour, will receive $4.5 million of funding. Project Restoration is led by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS), an innovative and collaborative marine science center between UNSW Sydney, UTS, the University of Sydney and Macquarie University. SIMS has more than 100 scientists and graduate students associated with the Institute, representing a wide variety of skills in marine science.

SIMS expects the project to have a significant research impact, with an implementation strategy that includes communicating restoration processes and outcomes on ferries transiting Sydney Harbour; Expanding current engagement with the community (both as citizen scientists and volunteers) with other diverse stakeholders; and formally documenting environmental, economic and social impacts from the start of the project.

The project will focus on restoring kelp beds and endangered seagrass beds. Photo: John Turnbull

SIMS CEO Martina Doblin says: “The project will provide a template for the restoration of entire seascapes within existing Sydney Institute of Marine Science restoration programs, which to date have operated largely independently of each other.

“Restoration on such large scales is rarely attempted for marine ecosystems, and Sydney Harbor is set to become an example of how seascapes can be restored globally.”

Read more: UNSW researcher co-led project nominated for Prince William’s Environmental Earthshot Award

The project seeks to strengthen NSW’s natural environment by restoring key ecosystems and habitats within Sydney Harbour. It targets endangered populations of Posidonia australis and protected and threatened species including white’s seahorses, little penguins, green turtles, pipefish and seadragons.

“Project Restoration is quite unique globally in that it focuses on the maintenance and restoration of multiple marine habitats simultaneously and at a meaningful scale,” says Adriana Verges, Professor in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES) at UNSW.

Researchers looking at a living sea wall in Sydney Harbour.

Livings Seawalls is a global project that is using novel ecological engineering methods to transform built structures into natural marine environments. Photo: Aria Lee

“While we will focus on restoring kelp beds and endangered seagrass beds, we will work with colleagues who will focus on restoring artificial habitats using fish habitats such as living seawalls or sea hare hotels. By restoring all these habitats at the same time and in the same places, We expect to see meaningful synergies and enhanced recovery.”

Livings Seawalls is a global project that is using novel ecological engineering methods to transform built structures into natural marine environments.

Read more: Help Our Kelp: A Global Movement to Restore Our Underwater Forests

“Project Restore also has a major science communication and community engagement component. It includes hands-on opportunities for people to get involved in restoration, which I think is great because people are interested in learning more about their local marine environment. When we all work together, we can do more. We can achieve a lot,” explains Prof. Verges.

Dr. also from BEES. Mariana Mayor Pinto says, “This funding will allow us to take a more holistic approach to restoration, combining major existing projects such as Living Seawalls, and therefore have a greater impact, resulting in a healthier port. Both nature and humans.”

The project will be conducted in three phases starting with seascape restoration suitability modeling to inform site selection for underground works followed by assessment of restoration outcomes. The knowledge gained from project restoration can then be applied to other degraded habitats in NSW and further overseas.

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