The Living Seawall project in Sidney for the protection of the oceans

In the oceans there is so much plastic that scientists believe that removing it altogether is not feasible. And, in fact, if you think that the equivalent of a truck full of plastic ends in the sea every minute, it is easy to realize the matter is huge. The symbol of the problem, in case there was further need, has become in the common imaginary the gigantic waste island in the Pacific Ocean.

Impacting on the marine environment, however, there is not only plastic, but also other factors. In particular, the construction of artificial seawalls, more and more frequent in recent decades due to the growing urbanization, causes changes (even destructive) to the surrounding ecosystem.

Around Sidney, for example, about half of the coast has been converted to manmade seawall: the consequence was the destruction of the mangrove jungle (a plant formation that develops on the low coasts of the tropical marine coasts) that was there. Together with the mangroves, then, all marine and coastal life that resides and feeds in and around the interweaving mangrove roots was removed. Not a good news for the environment, since those organisms have a filter effect on the water because they consume toxins, chemicals and particulates caused by pollution.

 

Since tearing down seawalls to make room for mangroves is not a viable option, it is easy to understand that solving such problems probably requires to use new technologies. This is what Volvo has done, in collaboration with the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and the Reef Design Lab. The Swedish company installed the Living Seawall in Sydney Harbor: it is a sort of seawall made of hexagonal recycled plastic tiles that reproduce the design of mangrove roots, ideal habitat for the marine life of the coast. The tiles, created with a mixture of cement and plastic from a mold made in 3D, have a complex biomimetic structure and are propped up with small holes of size ideal for the installation of oysters and other molluscs.

Over time, the filtering organisms should colonize the Living Seawall, and begin (again) their purification activities. The Living Seawall will be monitored for the next 20 years, to understand if it is actually capable of improving water quality and biodiversity. If you are intrigued, here you find the video presentation of the project.

 

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