SYDNEY: Marine ecologists in Sydney have successfully restored a once thriving seaweed species, which vanished along a stretch of the city's coastline during the 1970s and 80s during high levels of sewage outfalls.
A team of researchers from UNSW, the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and the NSW Department of Primary Industries has transplanted fertile specimens of the missing crayweed (Phyllospora comosa) onto two barren reef sites where it once grew abundantly.
They took seaweed from Palm Beach and Cronulla and transplanted it to Long Bay and Cape Banks. Their results are reported in the journal PLOS ONE.
"Seaweeds are the 'trees' of the oceans, providing habitat structure, food and shelter for other marine organisms, such as crayfish and abalone," says lead author, Dr Alexandra Campbell, from the UNSW Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation.
"The transplanted crayweed not only survived similarly to those in natural populations, but they also successfully reproduced. This creates the potential for a self-sustaining population at a place where this species has been missing for decades," she says.
Large brown seaweeds known as macroalgae along temperate coastlines, like those in NSW, also encourage biodiversity and are important to the region's fishing and tourism industries.
However, these seaweed ecosystems face increasing threats of degradation due to human impacts and ocean warming. The authors say the potential environmental and economic implications of losing these habitats would be comparable to the more highly publicised loss of Australia's tropical coral reefs.
In 2008, researchers from UNSW and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) showed that a 70 km stretch of this important habitat-forming crayweed had vanished from the Sydney coast decades earlier, coinciding with a period known for high
|Contact: Deborah Smith|
University of New South Wales