Dialog Box

News no tags 28 Feb 2019

Living Seawalls Launch at Sawmillers Reserve

Sawmillers Reserve, McMahons Point


A unique collaboration of science, government, philanthropy, industry and innovative design has enabled the installation of the Living Seawall at Sawmillers Reserve in McMahons Point, launched on the 28th February by Mayor Jilly Gibson, of North Sydney Council.



Living Seawalls is an initiative of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) which builds on years of Sydney-based marine green engineering research. The Living Seawalls team are assessing the ecological benefits of scaling up greening interventions on seawalls, by adding different types of habitat enhancing tiles to an entire seawall. Scientists from SIMS will be monitoring the tiles over time to answer questions such as how different microhabitats on the tiles influence colonisation of marine life and at what scale Living Seawalls can enhance important ecosystem functions in Sydney Harbour, such as filtration rates and primary productivity, which are directly linked to food and clean water supply. 


The concrete tiles have been specially designed using 3D technology to mimic natural habitat features of Sydney’s rocky shores and are retrofitted to existing seawalls. The team is working with Reef Design Lab, a Melbourne-based design studio, to develop these ecologically informed structures.


Excitingly within weeks of deployment, the Living Seawall at Sawmillers Reserve was colonised by a diverse marine community. Several species of fish were also frequently observed foraging around the seawall. In some cases, the complex microhabitats of the tiles were completely overgrown and researchers observed limpets, chitons, snails, oysters, barnacles, mussels and algae.


The current focus of Living Seawalls is to provide cost-effective options for retrofitting existing structures on private and public seawalls to improve their ecological value and enhance native biodiversity overall.


Official Launch of the Living Seawall at Sawmillers Reserve


In the future, the team anticipates developing additional habitat-enhancing structures, such as seawall blocks, that can be produced and installed during seawall construction or renovation. The team also plans to expand the project to other artificial marine infrastructure such as pilings and breakwaters. By simultaneously raising awareness of the growing problem of shoreline armouring and providing cost-effective, customizable solutions for ecological improvement of artificial structures, we anticipate opportunities for Living Seawalls will continue to grow.