Operation crayweed: Crowd funding the environment

By Kelly Jirsa

Operation crayweed: Crowd funding the environment
A committed band of scientists is crowdfunding for the environment and rebuilding Sydney's underwater forests.

Caryweed is a species of seaweed important for marine ecosystem balance. Coastal marine life such as local fish specifies, abalone, crayfish and microorganisms rely on forests of seaweed for protection, as well as a critical source of food and a home. Seaweed is hard at work for all of us too, as they turn atmospheric carbon into precious oxygen.

On Australia’s east coast, crayweed can be found in shallow reefs from Port Macquarie on the mid north coast of New South Wales (NSW), down to Tasmania, the southern most part of Australia. However from as early as 1980 the industrious species has completely disappeared from Sydney’s local beaches, reportedly from Palm Beach in the north to Cronulla in Sydney’s south.

Scientists from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and the University of NSW, have developed a successful way of rebuilding crayweed communities using thriving species, biodegradable mesh and basic supplies.

A UNSW marine scientist with the crayweed (Phyllospora comosa). Photo: John Turnbull/UNSW
A UNSW marine scientist with the crayweed (Phyllospora comosa). Photo: John Turnbull/UNSW


Their plan is to restore the crayweed forests in four key sites between the areas where they have completely disappeared as a result of sewerage contamination and pollution. Their method has been tried and tested on areas where the weed was dominant and now their plan is to transplant patches of these successful growths to barren places in desperate need.

“By creating patches of transplanted crayweed onto a reef, we can, in the long term, restore forests of this essential species in an entire site. The idea here, of course, is that by restoring crayweed we’re also restoring its associated community, and thereby increasing the chances of finding crayfish, abalone and a huge diversity of other fish and invertebrates at restored sites, which is good news for snorkelers, fishers, beach goers and seafood lovers.”

Operation Crayweed. Dr Alexandra Campbell, Dr Adriana Verges and Dr Ezequiel Marzinelli.

The team’s aim was to raise $20,000 AUD to fund the initial stages of the project; they explain that to develop and build each site costs $5000. They will now be able to reintroduce almost 8 new crayweed sites to Sydney.


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