Volvo Living Sea Walls

Name of case study

 Volvo Living Sea Walls

Location

Sydney, Australia

Year

2018

Scale

Single-site scale

Area / size

158 habitat tiles across 18m2

NbS employed

Living Seawalls / Biodiversity Tiles

Type of NbS

Engineered interventions (not using vegetation)

Initiator

New South Wales Government

Funder

New South Wales Government

Budget

unknown

Design group

Living Seawalls Team

Living Seawalls Australia, 2022. Photo by Living Seawalls
Newly installed Living Seawall. Photo by Reef Design Lab
Climate change benefits
  • Changes in phenology 
  • Coastal erosion
  • Coastal inundation and storm surge
  • Ocean acidification
  • Sea level rise 
  • Temperature rise
Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • Disaster risk reduction and resilience
Ecological benefits
  • Biodiversity health and conservation
  • Biological control (regulation of pests and disease)
  • Disturbance prevention (erosion, storm damage, flooding etc.)
  • Genetic resources (diversity)
  • Habitat provision
  • Purification (of water, soil, air)

Summary of case study

Living Seawalls is the result of twenty years of research and are tools to increase the biodiversity of artificial structures, specifically seawalls, in the marine environment (Living Seawalls Australia, 2022). Living Seawalls are a modular panel system by which critical habitats for marine life can be added to marine constructions that have been installed in several sites in Australia and elsewhere (Reef Design Lab, 2023). Panels, mimicking the habitat features of natural shoreline ecosystems, such as rock pools and crevices, and mangrove roots are attached to artificial structures, increasing the habitat area available for colonisation and growth of seaweeds, shellfish and other marine life (Living Seawalls Australia, 2024). The tiles provide food, shelter, and nurseries for a range of species including invertebrates, algae and fish (Perkol-Finkel et al. 2018). Habitat panels were installed on ~18 m2 of seawall at Milsons Point. The addition of these tiles has seen ecological benefits over a 1–2-year time frame. Already, they support 73% more species in comparison to unmodified seawalls (Vozzo et al., 2021). This has meant a healthier shoreline for people and more opportunities as a hotspot for recreation and tourism.

They also add protection to marine life from high temperatures and predators. Further research is underway to find more in terms of how they could adapt to sea level rise and the impacts they could potentially reduce or mitigate for more frequent and stronger wave energy considering the increasingly extreme weather events.

Coastal edges have been heavily impacted by human growth, with additional structures such as sea walls, pilings, pontoons, and marinas replacing natural shorelines. These structures have destroyed natural habitats as well as modified the sea floor (Jackson et al, 2022). 

More research is needed to discuss the value of this case study as it is relatively new. There are clearly increased biodiversity benefits and climate change adaptation and mitigation benefits (Vozzo et al., 2021).

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Living Seawall. Photo by Reef Design Lab
References

Further resources:

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