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Woodchips to the rescue? Humble material could help protect Great Barrier Reef

Date: 18-Mar-20
Author: Liam Taylor

The corals of the Great Barrier Reef are facing a multitude of threats, making dealing with those we can control such as run-off highly important.

The corals of the Great Barrier Reef are facing a multitude of threats, making dealing with those we can control such as run-off highly important.

They might not be the flashiest technological solution, but woodchip-filled trenches could be key to reducing the impact of fertiliser run-off on the Great Barrier Reef.

At the International Bioreactor Forum held in Cairns last week, data was presented on the efficacy of denitrification bioreactors, a newly developed technology that works by using naturally occurring bacteria in woodchips to break down nitrates from fertiliser in water run-off. Farmers and researchers are working in cooperation to trial the new technology in sugarcane paddocks in the wet tropics.

The use of fertiliser in these areas, where high annual rainfall exacerbates the problem, leads to nitrogen run-off, which has been linked to algal blooms and outbreaks of Crown of Thorns starfish that reduce coral cover. Bioreactors are not only working to manage and reduce nitrogen run-off, but also to help researchers understand exactly how much nitrate was entering run-off in the first place. 

"We're doing specific monitoring at the start and end of our bioreactors so we have a good idea of what's going in and what's coming out,” Rhianna Robinson, research agronomist with the Queensland Department of Agriculture, told ABC News.

The project wouldn’t be possible without the support and involvement of cane farmers in the region who have volunteered sites for the bioreactors to be trialled. The data collected will be analysed by researchers who will then work with farmers to implement best practice.

 

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.

 




Liam                                              Taylor
Author: Liam Taylor

Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia. Joining the communications team at Planet Ark, he hopes to inspire positive environmental behaviour through effective and positive messaging.



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