Lane Cove Council’s Living Seawall Project at Burns Bay Reserve Lane Cove

    A roving reporter contacted In the Cove after seeing some strange-looking “tiles” on the Burns Bay Reserve seawall. They wondered if ITC knew why the tiles had been installed.

    We love a challenge, so we decided to do some research. We contacted the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and asked them about the tiles, which we found out are, in fact, panels that form an installation called a Living Seawall.

    What is a Living Seawall?

    Seawalls, pilings, pontoons, and marinas are built for diverse purposes, such as shoreline protection, recreational activities, and energy generation. Still, they lack the complexity required for a biodiverse marine environment. Marine life used to live on a natural surface but was replaced by an artificial environment no longer suitable. A Living Seawall is designed to replicate nature and increase biodiversity.

    The first Living Seawall was installed in North Sydney. Barnacles and snails quickly colonised the habitat panels. Over the next two years, over 115 fish species, invertebrates, and seaweed lived on and among the Living Seawalls.

    Aria Lee, Project Manager for the Living Seawall project, told ITC:

    “The Living Seawall project is an excellent example of scientists working with industrial designers. The habitat panels feature complex surface designs that mimic the natural environment.

    Industrial designers at Reef Design Lab digitally design the panels. The size and shape of the design features (e.g., rock pools and crevices) are informed by measurements taken from features on natural rocky shorelines.

    Once a panel design is finalised, it is created using the latest 3D printing technology. This printing method allows for recreating the fine details of natural shorelines.

    Living Seawalls currently has ten habitat panel designs, each targeting different features of natural shorelines, benefiting diverse groups of marine organisms. They have been installed nationally and internationally.

    In North Sydney, the Living Seawall installations have seen a 36% increase in the number of fish, seaweed, and invertebrates along the Sydney Harbour.

    Humans also benefit directly from Living Seawalls. Research has demonstrated that where habitat-enhancing panels bolster biodiversity and the number of oysters and mussels, they can also enhance particle removal from the water. Hence, installing Living Seawalls may improve local water clarity and quality. This, in turn, enhances recreational activities, including swimming, fishing, and water sports, in and around urban oceans.”

    Why has it been installed in Burns Bay Reserve?

    A spokesperson for Lane Cove Council advised ITC:

    “Lane Cove Council, in partnership with the NSW Government, is enhancing the marine habitat value of Burns Bay Reserve by installing ‘Living Seawall’ panels onto the existing concrete sea wall.

    The Sydney Institute of Marine Science designed the Sydney Institute of Mariase the habitat value of Australia’s developed coastline.

    ‘Living Seawalls’ are artificial modular panels with complex surfaces that mimic features of the natural shoreline and provide a habitat for marine life.

    The Living seawall Installation at Burns Bay consists of 85 habitat panels and 5 to 10 control panels. The Habitat panel selections are a mixture of designs to allow marine life the best chance to colonise.

    The types of panels include Swim Through panels, Ridge panels, Rock Pool panels, Kelp Holdfast panels, Oyster Holdfast panels and control panels. The control panels are blank panels to see what would generally colonise if the habitat panels were not there.”

    Lane Cove Council’s bushland team initiated the project, utilising funds from the the Council’s Sustainability Levy and the NSW Department of Planning and Environment for the Living Seawalls.

    The motivation was to help address goals and objectives outlined in the Sustainability Action Plan and Climate Resilience Plan, for example:

    Sustainability Action Plan 2016-2021

    Goal 4: A Climate Resilient Community

    4.2        Increase understanding of climate risk and implement adaptation options:

    The Seawall project provides an excellent example of an adaption to climate risk, creating an opportunity to enhance an existing aquatic ecosystem.

    Climate Resilience Plan

    2.09        Include the following principles in future Council facilities and upgrades:

            • Integrate the environment into building design.

    The Seawall project is an excellent example of a green design. It recreates existing Council infrastructure and reimagines the wall as part of the environment rather than apart from it.”

    The project is hoped to increase biodiversity in the Burns Bay Area and improve water quality. The Burns Bay Reserve is popular for boating and fishing, and now, the Share Kayak scheme is popular.

    You may see some oysters growing on the Living Seawall. It is highly recommended that you do not disturb the oysters, as they are unfit for human consumption. The only oysters you should eat are those grown commercially.

    Where is Burns Bay Reserve?

    Burns Bay Reserve Lane Cove is accessed via Kooyong Road, off Riverview Street, Lane Cove. It is a peaceful spot by the water with a playground and sports grounds, making it an excellent place for a picnic (read more here).

    What a great initiative from Lane Cove Council’s Bushland team.

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