Scientists will install an artificial reef in waters adjacent to the iconic Sydney Opera House, to test the potential of such refuges in areas where man-made structures have replaced natural habitats.
The modular reef will be suspended in the waters alongside the building as part of a new research project exploring ways to maintain and enhance the marine biodiversity in Sydney Harbour.
Sydney Harbour is in good shape. It has more species than in New Zealand's coastal waters - "but this experiment will test whether such structures can enhance what is already found on artificial shorelines," said Professor David Booth from University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Australia.
The three-year research project will start by recording the current state of play in terms of fish numbers and diversity in the waters around the Opera House and in other harbour sites.
Once this surveying is complete the new artificial reef will be installed early next year and then monitored regularly for changes in fish populations, researchers said.
Booth said more than half of the Sydney Harbour shoreline has been replaced by seawalls to protect infrastructure from storms and erosion.
"In some cases these have been around for over a century, and they are made of lovely sandstone, but they just do not offer the habitat that was there. The goal of this project is to see if we can enhance that," Booth said.
"We believe initiatives like the artificial reef that will be trialled at the Opera House could help restore natural marine habitats and rebalance biodiversity," he said.
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