South Australia’s second large-scale oyster reef restoration will be constructed off the Adelaide metropolitan coast

A new shellfish reef is to be built at Glenelg, signalling a rapid transition from environmental amnesia to conservation action.

In a stark contrast to the historical baseline of South Australian oyster reefs, University of Adelaide researchers’, Professor Sean Connell and Dr Heidi Alleway had discovered 1,500 km of Southern Australia coastline reefs had been lost in due to population growth of coastal settlements since the late 1800’s. Past distribution and oyster abundance had been lost from common memory over the past 180 years.

The new metropolitan reef follows the successful construction of Windara Reef near Ardrossan, Yorke Peninsula completed in 2018. The biological response to Windara Reef, the largest reef restoration in the Southern Hemisphere (20-ha), has been phenomenal. University of Adelaide researchers, Dr Dominic McAfee and Prof. Sean Connell have documented incredibly high natural recruitment of oysters across Windara Reef, which can be managed to form self-sustaining, living reefs over time. This exciting biological response and the public enthusiasm for the project, motivated the South Australian Government to continue restoring this extinct habitat.

Our researchers helped identify three appropriate locations across the Adelaide metropolitan coastline for reef restoration, from which the public voted on their preferred location. These included:

  • O’Sullivan Beach
  • Port Noarlunga
  • Glenelg

In consultation with government and environmental groups, the Glenelg site was chosen as it represents one of first reef restorations near a major urban centre in the world, offering a fantastic opportunity for the public to students to engage with reef restoration. The Department of Environment Water and The Nature Conservancy are now preparing to build a new reef (~2-4 ha) within a 1 km of Glenelg’s shoreline.

Prof. Sean Connell with fish on Windara Reef

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