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Researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast are hoping to uncover a nature-based solution to the problem of nitrogen in Australia’s waterways with a pioneering research trial at the North Pine River, north of Brisbane.

The research hopes to see if restoring shellfish reefs could be the answer to removing excess nutrients in our waterways.

The project holds the potential to reshape the future of wastewater treatment practices throughout the country.

Nitrogen can be very detrimental to fish habitats because it contributes to algal blooms and high algae areas mean that oysters have fewer areas where they can grow.  This project aims to investigate if a nature-based solution for removing nitrogen could be oysters.

It’s an initiative spearheaded by Unity Water whose commitment to net zero includes an ambitious goal of ensuring all nutrients from wastewater are diverted or offset from waterways by 2040. The organisation was continuously looking for ways to reduce its operating footprint and support the natural environment to beneficially reuse water.

A pivotal aspect of our project is the utilisation of OzFish’s robust oyster baskets (ROBs) a proven vessels for shellfish reef restoration.

These ROBs mimic natural reefs, providing a thriving habitat for oysters and other shellfish. They contribute to improved water quality and ecological functionality while fostering the growth of valuable shellfish populations.

The ROBs were developed by OzFish volunteers, and deployed in October at an intertidal zones within the North Pine River near Murrumba Downs Wastewater Treatment Plant to kick-start the research project.

Revolutionary research a shared vision

Dr Ben Gilby, a senior lecturer and esteemed expert in marine ecology, fish biology, and marine ecosystem management at the University of Sunshine Coast, will lead a team of researchers to uncover what nutrients the reefs can sequester.

Up to 95 per cent of oyster reefs have disappeared along Australia’s coastline and are now considered functionally extinct. These reefs historically played a major role in nutrient removal. OzFish’s successful shellfish reef restoration in Moreton Bay has provided the catalyst for this nutrient removal pilot to see if they can be the answer to a problem faced by many waterways in Australia.

As the project progresses, updates and findings will be shared with the public, ensuring transparency and inviting active participation in the journey towards a greener, healthier future.

Latest News

MAY 2023 | Shellfish reef restoration research to uncover the value of oysters to improve water quality

Unitywater is trialling an oyster reef restoration project that will for the first time in Australia determine the value and effectiveness oysters have to filter nutrients in waterways.The restoration project will explore the effectiveness of restored shellfish reefs in the upper estuarine reaches of the Pine River (10 kms from the river mouth), at sites immediately downstream of the Murrumba Downs Wastewater Treatment Plant. Unitywater Executive Manager Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions Daniel Lambert said it was this fresh thinking that would help the water utility achieve its net zero sustainability goals.

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SEPTEMBER 2023 | Oysters to make a splash in wastewater filtration projec

Shellfish could hold the key to filtering nutrients in wastewater with a ground-breaking project in Queensland testing their effectiveness. OzFish Unlimited, Australia’s fishing conservation charity, has teamed up with Unity Water, The University of Sunshine Coast and Healthy Land and Water for a five-year, first-of-its-kind research project on the North Pine River, north of Brisbane.   The project, which began last year, is looking at how much nitrogen can be removed from the wastewater by the deployment of shellfish structures. These Robust Oyster Baskets (ROBs), which mimic natural shellfish reefs, provide a habitat for oysters and \supporting the growth of valuable shellfish populations.  

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OCTOBER 2023 | Pioneering project investigates nature-based solution to nutrients in waterways

Researchers are hoping to uncover a nature-based solution to the problem of nitrogen in Australia’s waterways with a pioneering trial at the North Pine River, north of Brisbane.  Restoring oyster reefs could be the answer to removing nutrients in waterways and a joint project between OzFish Unlimited – Australia’s fishing conservation charity, Unitywater, Healthy Land and Water and the University of Sunshine Coast will study their effectiveness over the next five years.   OzFish has been dedicated to restoring shellfish habitat in Moreton Bay for several years and this project at North Pine River targets the removal of excessive nutrients in the waterway.

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This project is a collaboration between Unitywater, University of Sunshine Coast, Healthy Land and Water and OzFish Unlimited. It is also supported by BCF – Boating, Camping, Fishing.