The legacy of Port Pirie’s 130-year smelting history on the marine environment. What now?

Dr Hazel Vandeleur1, Dr  Craig  Styan1,2, Mr Sam  Gaylard3, Dr Jim Tyler4, Mr Lee  Kolokas5

1University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia, 2University College London, Adelaide, Australia, 3South Australian EPA, Adelaide, Australia, 4Nyrstar Port Pirie, Port Pirie, Australia, 5Flinders Ports, Adelaide, Australia

Port Pirie in South Australia hosts the world’s largest lead and zinc smelter, which has been operating for over 130 years. During its operations both direct and indirect emissions from the smelter have resulted in extensive contamination of metals in the environment that has been well documented. Whilst industry has reduced the smelter emissions through time, lead levels associated with human health have been a key focus of Government initiatives and there is little contemporary information to assess whether there have there been any changes in contamination levels in the marine environment.  We reviewed all available literature relating to Port Pirie’s marine environments and compiled spatial and temporal information on metal contamination from the smelter. We then undertook sampling of Port Germein’s surface sediments and confirmed that metal concentrations are still of concern and are greatest nearest the smelter and emission sources, such as First Creek; very similar to patterns found nearly 40 years ago.  Even with changing pollution loads, metals are persistent contaminants and current and historical pollution has accumulated in the system. Some metals may be locked away in non-available forms in habitats such as seagrasses or mangroves, but changing environmental conditions, habitat degradation and development could all result in currently stored metals being remobilised. A true long-term solution to remediate the marine environment at Port Pirie needs a new, innovative solution. Can we utilise the smelter itself to help remediate and address the ongoing, persistent and deleterious impact of metals on sediments?


Biography:

Bio to come

Restoring Gulf St Vincent’s Reefs: Building a blue infrastructure economy

Ms Anita Nedosyko1, Dr Chris Gillies1, Mr Simon Branigan1, Dr  Simon Reeves1, Mr Alex Hams1

1The Nature Conservancy, Carlton, Melbourne, Australia

The Gulf St Vincent’s health and economic benefits depends on functioning and resilient ocean and coastal ecosystems. But these marine ecosystems and resources   are threatened by habitat loss, climate change, fishing and nutrient imbalance. Our marine resources must be protected so that they can continue to provide the resources we depend on well into the future. In 2015, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), South Australian Government, Yorke Peninsula Council, Commonwealth Government and the Australian philanthropic community invested $4.2 million to establish Australia’s largest oyster reef restoration project, the Windara Reef, in Gulf St Vincent. This initial investment has demonstrated the many benefits of investing in blue infrastructure including attracting $990,000 Commonwealth Government investment through Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. We have demonstrated through Windara Reef, and over fifteen years of restoring marine habitats around the world, that these reefs and their many social, economic and environmental benefits can be restored. South Australia has an opportunity to lead the nation by committing to the first state-wide plan to restore shellfish reefs, marking the start of a successful effort to capture a larger share of the estimated $100 billion national blue economy by 2025.

In this presentation we describe the experience gained and lessons learnt from implementing Windara Reef. We also highlight how investing in blue infrastructure (particularly restoring oyster reefs) provides a suite of co-benefits for communities and the environment and provides other groups access to new sources of funding.


Biography:

Bio to come

Relicts, remnants or refuges? South Australian jetties as habitat for biogenic reef-forming species

Dr Craig Styan1, Dr Hazel Vandeleur2

1University College London, UniSA Mawson Lakes Campus, Mawson Lakes, Australia, 2Futures Industries Institute, UniSA, Mawson Lakes, Australia

The economic and social value of jetties are well known in South Australia, but jetties’ ecological roles are less understood. Scientifically, jetties have proven convenient places to test theories about subtidal ecology but connections with broader subtidal ecosystems remain unexplored. Addressing this, we are repeating surveys of jetty pilings done by Alan Butler and his group in the 1970’s and 80’s, testing whether patterns in assemblage composition and ecology documented then have persisted. Despite some physical changes to jetties, most assemblages of marine invertebrates seem similar 40 years later and characteristic differences among jetties appear to have continued.  One spectacular example is the large colonies of bryozoans still present at Port Giles, where growths sometimes dislodge to form small (biogenic) reef structures on the adjacent seabed.  In contrast to jetty pilings, habitat mapping work in the early 2000s suggests reef building species including bryozoans and sponges (and habitats created by them) have all but disappeared across the deeper parts of Gulf St. Vincent since the 1970s.  It is unclear now whether assemblages of bryozoans and sponges underneath jetties represent relict, remnant or refuge populations of formerly widespread species, or what role assemblages under jetties currently play in the broader population dynamics of these species. While jetties create unique, artificial habitat, the environmental conditions under them can partially replicate natural reef overhangs and deeper regions of the gulfs – and, by harbouring species formerly found in such areas, jetties could have an important role in restoring gulf ecosystems.


Biography:

Craig Styan is an Associate Professor at University College London and leads an Engineering group based in South Australia, as part of a partnership between the Faculty of Engineering Sciences at UCL and the University of South Australia. His research aims to better understand and manage the impacts of energy and natural resources development, particularly in the marine environment. Consequently, he works across a range of areas including environmental monitoring and statistical analysis, ecotoxicology and pollution studies, policy and impact assessment, engineering and economics, though to studies of community engagement and ‘Social Licence to Operate’.

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