Fish in Sydney, Australia, will soon have a housing upgrade thanks to a partnership between the famous Opera House and several universities.
The three-year project involves installing “apartment blocks” to act as artificial reefs for native sea life around Sydney Harbour, Broadsheet Sydney reports. The Sydney Opera House, the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Sydney have an end goal of building up certain depleted species like baby blue gropers and seahorses by giving them more places to hide.
According to Broadsheet, human-made sandstone seawalls have taken up about 50 percent of the harbor’s foreshore. That’s a problem, because those seawalls are largely flat, and the fish native to the area prefer habitat where they can recede from view — places like reef edges and mangroves.
The “apartment blocks” will be nine 1-meter-long hexagonal structures made of fiberglass and concrete. They’ll be placed around the harbor’s Bennelong Point with funding from an $86,000 government rehabilitation grant, the University of Technology Sydney and the Opera House.
“The hope is that if this works out, then we can roll them out a bit wider,” David Booth, lead researcher and a UTS professor of marine biology, told Broadsheet. “Maybe it will be a bit of a model for elsewhere.”
Coastal urbanization doesn’t have to equal a drop in marine biodiversity. In Seattle, for instance, mud-dwelling bivalves and gastropods (think clams and snails) seem to like the conditions fostered by man-made development (though it’s possible that Seattle was actually developed around those creatures, with humans prioritizing an abundant food source).
But many urban waterways have been affected by development, and some organizations in the U.S. want to help cities rebuild their marine biodiversity. Last year, officials permitted the nonprofit Urban Rivers to install “floating wetlands” in the Chicago River. The installation included four 150-foot-long,10-foot-wide platforms anchored to the riverbanks with habitat for fish, ducks, turtles, muskrats and river otters.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.