Innovative marine science center receives $4.5 million in funding

The world’s largest harbor-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 NSW Government funding as part of NSW Environmental Trust’s new funding initiatives.

Project Restore, which is the largest element of the Seabirds in seascapes initiative and will focus on Sydney Harbour, will receive $4.5 million of the funding. Project Restore 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 diversity of marine science skills.

SIMS anticipates that the project will have a significant impact on research, with its implementation strategy involving communicating restoration processes and outcomes to ferries transiting Sydney Harbour; extend current engagement with the community (both citizen scientists and volunteers) to other diverse stakeholders; and formally document the environmental, economic and social impact from the start of the project.

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

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

“Restoration on such a large scale is rarely attempted for marine ecosystems, and Sydney Harbor will become an example of how seascape restoration can be done globally.”

Read more: A UNSW researcher co-leads the Prince William Environmental Earthshot Award-nominated project

The project also aims to strengthen NSW’s natural environment by restoring key ecosystems and habitats within Sydney Harbour. Targets endangered populations of Posidonia australis and the protected and threatened species it provides habitat for, including the white seahorse, little penguins, green turtles, pipefish and sea dragons .

“Project Restore is quite unique worldwide in that it focuses on repairing and restoring multiple marine habitats simultaneously and on a significant scale,” says Professor Adriana Verges from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences ( BEES) at UNSW.

Researcher looking at a live dyke in Sydney Harbour.

Livings Seawalls is a global project that uses new ecological engineering methods to turn built structures into the natural marine environments they once were. Photo: Aria Lee

“While we will focus on restoring kelp beds and endangered seagrass meadows, we will also work alongside colleagues who focus on restoring artificial habitats through Living Seawalls or fish habitats through seahorse hotels. By restoring all these habitats at the same time and in the same places, we expect to see significant synergies and enhanced recovery.”

Livings Seawalls is a global project that uses new ecological engineering methods to turn built structures into the natural marine environments they once were.

Read more: Help our kelp: the global movement to restore our underwater forests

“Project Restore also includes an important science communication and community engagement component. This includes hands-on opportunities for people to get involved in restoration, which I think is great because people are very interested in learning more about their environment local marine. We can achieve much more when we all work together,” explains Professor Verges.

Dr Mariana Mayer Pinto, also from BEES, says: ‚ÄúThis funding will allow us to take a more holistic approach to restoration, combining existing key projects such as living dykes, and will therefore have a greater impact, resulting in a healthier harbor for people. both nature and humans”.

The project will be carried out in three phases, starting with seascape restoration suitability modeling to inform site selection, followed by fieldwork and then assessment of restoration outcomes. The knowledge gained from Project Restore can be applied to other degraded habitats in NSW and further overseas.

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