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A key goal of the Sydney Harbour Research Program (SHRP) is to
develop nature-based solutions to the environmental problems faced by urbanised
estuaries around Sydney. One of the most pervasive and long-standing issues is
that of pollution. Sydney’s history of industrialisation has left a legacy of
metal contamination in estuarine sediments, added to decades of unprocessed
sewer discharges up to the 1990s and continued discharges of stormwater.
Nowadays, estuarine sediments typically contain high concentration of metals,
and excess of nutrients and organic pollutants. This can lead to algal blooms
and anoxic conditions in estuaries, driving mass mortalities. The SHRP team is
investigating nature-based solutions through ‘bioremediation’, a process utilising
living organisms, such as oyster reefs and sediment burrowing organisms
(‘bioturbators’) like clams and shrimps to clean sediments.
Recently, the SHRP team, in collaboration with the University of
New South Wales, the University of Sydney, and Macquarie University, has
been studying the characteristics of sediments around remnant oyster reefs in
Port Hacking and Hunter River. The team wants to establish how oysters
influence the processing of pollutants in those sediments. And voila! We found that
oyster reefs seem to increase the activity of biotubators, potentially
facilitating pollutant removal. Our study shows that there is potential for
oyster reef restoration to be used as a form of bioremediation.
The next step
is to determine whether bioturbators and oysters effectively remove excess
Stay tuned for more updates!