It doesn’t look like a fir tree, and you can’t wrap it with tinsel, but an underwater Christmas tree would be a great choice this holiday season.
The idea comes from University of NSW scientists who are working to restore the seaweed forests that disappeared from Sydney’s coastline 30 years ago.
Their plan is to crowdfund the work by inspiring people to sponsor individual “trees” that will be planted onto deforested underwater reefs.
The disappearance of the once-thriving seaweed trees – crayweed (Phyllospora comosa) – is thought to be linked to the discharge of poorly treated sewage close to Sydney beaches in the 1970s and ‘80s.
The Manly community led that fight with its famous POOO - People Opposed to Ocean Outfall - marches, and our water is much cleaner as a result. However, the crayweed colonies have not regrown.
That’s where “Operation Crayweed” comes in.
UNW scientists use fertile adult crayweed plants, which they “plant” in a biodegradable mesh attached to reefs about 2 to 3 metres down.
The method has already created new, self-sustaining crayweed colonies at test sites at Cape Banks, Little Bay and Long Bay, and researchers are now ready to scale the project up and bring crayweed back to a 70km-long stretch of coastline between Palm Beach and Cronulla.
It’s important because seaweeds are the “trees of our oceans, providing habitat, food and shelter for other marine organisms,” said UNSW marine ecologist Dr Adriana Verges.
“When these forests disappear, it’s a sign that something has gone fundamentally wrong and diverse marine communities and economically important species such as rock lobsters and abalone disappear too.”
It’s $20 to sponsor one tree, $50 for a little crayweed family that can reproduce on its own or $500 to plant a whole forest.
Your Christmas tree won’t be on its lonesome.
"We have been extremely humbled by the amazing response!" Dr Verges said.
"We reached our original $20,000 target in only five days! We had planned to restore four sites, but we are now raising the bar and hoping we can raise enough to restore six or perhaps even eight sites. That would mean reaching $40,000 by January 31."
To help visit the Operation Crayweed display at Manly Sea Life Sanctuary or go to pozible.com/project/202503
Candy Bingham, Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.