Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
REVIEW

Sydney Harbour: what we do and do not know about a highly diverse estuary

E. L. Johnston A B , M. Mayer-Pinto A B L , P. A. Hutchings C , E. M. Marzinelli A B D , S. T. Ahyong C , G. Birch E , D. J. Booth F , R. G. Creese G , M. A. Doblin H , W. Figueira I , P. E. Gribben B D , T. Pritchard J , M. Roughan K , P. D. Steinberg B D and L. H. Hedge A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

B Sydney Institute of Marine Science, 19 Chowder Bay Road, Mosman, NSW 2088, Australia.

C Australian Museum Research Institute, Australian Museum, 6 College Street, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia.

D Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

E School of GeoSciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

F Centre for Environmental Sustainability, School of the Environment, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia.

G New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Port Stephens Fisheries Institute, Nelson Bay, NSW 2315, Australia.

H Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia.

I Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

J Water and Coastal Science Section, New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, PO Box A290, Sydney, NSW 1232, Australia.

K Coastal and Regional Oceanography Lab, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of New South Wales, NSW 2052, Australia.

L Corresponding author. Email: m.mayerpinto@unsw.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 66(12) 1073-1087 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF15159
Submitted: 20 April 2015  Accepted: 31 August 2015   Published: 16 November 2015

Abstract

Sydney Harbour is a global hotspot for marine and estuarine diversity. Despite its social, economic and biological value, the available knowledge has not previously been reviewed or synthesised. We systematically reviewed the published literature and consulted experts to establish our current understanding of the Harbour’s natural systems, identify knowledge gaps, and compare Sydney Harbour to other major estuaries worldwide. Of the 110 studies in our review, 81 focussed on ecology or biology, six on the chemistry, 10 on geology and 11 on oceanography. Subtidal rocky reef habitats were the most studied, with a focus on habitat forming macroalgae. In total 586 fish species have been recorded from the Harbour, which is high relative to other major estuaries worldwide. There has been a lack of process studies, and an almost complete absence of substantial time series that constrains our capacity to identify trends, environmental thresholds or major drivers of biotic interactions. We also highlight a lack of knowledge on the ecological functioning of Sydney Harbour, including studies on microbial communities. A sound understanding of the complexity, connectivity and dynamics underlying ecosystem functioning will allow further advances in management for the Harbour and for similarly modified estuaries around the world.

Additional keywords: Australia, biodiversity, harbours, Port Jackson, urbanisation.


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