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Volvo creates extensive Living Seawall in Sydney Harbour to combat pollution and promote biodiversity

Volvo creates extensive Living Seawall in Sydney Harbour to combat pollution and promote biodiversity
May 3, 2019

Swedish car maker Volvo has partnered with the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Reef Design Lab and North Sydney Council to create one of the world’s largest Living Seawalls at Milsons Point as a response to the impact of increasing urbanisation on coastlines.

Over the last 200 years more than half of Sydney’s vibrant marine habitats along the harbour foreshore have been replaced with man-made seawalls. These seawalls are typically flat and featureless and support lower biodiversity compared to the natural habitats they replaced.

The Living Seawall consists of 50 3D-printed tiles that have been designed to mimic the root structure of mangrove trees. They have been retrofitted to the existing seawall to help improve marine biodiversity and water quality.

Each tile features tiny nooks and crannies that give marine life a place to live and hide, just as they would in a natural mangrove ecosystem. This attracts filter-feeding organisms that absorb and filter out pollutants, such as particulate matter and heavy metals.

Within a week of installation oysters, molluscs, and filter-feeding organisms will begin colonising the Living Seawall, helping to combat the effects of urbanisation and pollution in our waterways.

Nick Connor, Managing Director of Volvo Car Australia, explained “we’ve lost 50% of the world’s mangrove forests, and in their place, we’ve built things like seawalls, which proliferate around Sydney Harbour. Tearing down the seawalls is not viable.

“There’s a Swedish word, omtanke, that means ‘caring’ and ‘consideration’. I think that really captures what we’re trying to achieve with the Living Seawall, and it sums up Volvo’s approach to sustainability in general. We’re always trying to rethink, reinvent, redesign for the better.”

To install the Living Seawall, Volvo partnered with North Sydney Council, the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, and Reef Design Lab, a Melbourne-based designer of marine habitat infrastructure.

North Sydney Mayor Jilly Gibson advised “these new habitat tiles on our seawalls have the potential to help rejuvenate Sydney Harbour by bringing more marine life back into our waters. I hope to see other harbourside councils follow our lead in supporting initiatives that have huge environmental benefits for our waterways.”

Alex Goad, Industrial Designer at Reef Design Lab, added “Volvo’s Living Seawall shows what can be done when we’re designing and building coastal structures around the world. It’s about making these structures as beneficial to the environment as possible.

“Living Seawall flips a harmful structure into a marine habitat and presents a unique opportunity to research which specific designs and geometries are the best to support the ecosystems in our oceans.”

Associate Professor Melanie Bishop from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and Macquarie University, concluded “we are delighted to partner with Volvo, Reef Design Lab, and North Sydney Council on the Living Seawall project, which draws upon several decades of scientific research on greening Sydney Harbour.

“The comprehensive monitoring and evaluation program that accompanies the installation will provide important information on the environmental benefits of adding surface area and complexity to enhance the existing seawalls and will provide the basis for expanding to further seawall sites in Sydney.”

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