Nonetheless, the researchers say these results are encouraging and that at least some sites in Sydney are healthy enough to support Phyllospora.
"The transplanted crayweed not only survived similarly to those in natural populations, but they also successfully reproduced," Alexandra Campbell, from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), said in a statement. "This creates the potential for a self-sustaining population at a place where this species has been missing for decades."
Seaweeds are the "trees" of the ocean, Campbell added; they support life along temperate coastlines, which can help promote biodiversity and sustain fishing and tourism industries. Compared to other habitat-forming species like corals, macroalgae have relatively fast growth-rates and short life spans, which makes transplantation an attractive restoration option for degraded coastal ecosystems, the study's authors wrote.
"This kind of restoration study has rarely been done in these seaweed-dominated habitats, but our results suggest that we may be able to assist in the recovery of underwater forests on Sydney's reefs, potentially enhancing biodiversity and recreational fishing opportunities along our coastline," said research supervisor Peter Steinberg, director of UNSW's Sydney Institute of Marine Science.