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Restoring underwater leafy habitats

Restoring underwater leafy habitats

Kelp Forest (CC BY 2.0)

Associate Professor Adriana Vergés is a marine ecologist and multiple ARC grant recipient, based at The University of New South Wales and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, whose research seeks to reverse the disappearance of the world's seaweed forests, which are under pressure from human activity and climate change. 

The winner of the UNSW Emerging Thought Leader Prize in 2019, Professor Vergés is the mastermind behind Operation Crayweed which has restored thriving crayweed forests to the shallow waters off Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. This successful restoration project has had a significant impact on the wider community, both in terms of its environmental effect, but also through the innovative science communication that took place around it at public events, to engage and inspire the local community in the protection of seaweeds. A newer project Operation Posidonia seeks to achieve similar aims, with public engagement and funding to restore the endangered Posidonia australis seagrass to estuaries where it once thrived, and phase out the use of the block-and-chain boat moorings which destroy it.

Professor Vergés says that her ultimate goal is to “rewild” our underwater forests and seagrass meadows and then climate-proof these habitats. 

“In the marine environment, we are already seeing the impacts of climate change in a major way. Fishers are now catching species that used to be found in warmer waters, and we also have species and entire habitats that are disappearing," says Professor Vergés. 

“For example, 95 per cent of Tasmania’s giant kelp forests have disappeared – and that is because of climate change.”


A kelp forest. Image Credit: California Sea Grant Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

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