Unravelling the drivers of greenhouse gas emissions in estuaries

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Project Team: Prof. Bradley Eyre, Assoc. Prof. Matt Hipsey (UWA), Dr. Badin Gibbs (UQ), Dr. Dirk Erler, Dr. Damien Maher, Dr. Naomi Wells, Vera Sandel, Jian-Chih Chan (Kenji)


Coastal systems play a disproportionately large role in the global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), but this is poorly quantified. The aim of this study is to resolve the factors controlling the emission of CO2, CH4 and N2O from estuaries. It will use an innovative combination of continuous underway concentration and stable isotope measurements, process measurements and advanced numerical modelling across a range of undisturbed to disturbed systems. This study is significant because it will quantify the role of coastal systems in GHG emissions. The outcomes of this study will provide information critical for efficient allocation of management resources in Australian coastal systems.

Filtering water samples Sediment sampling
L: Filtering water samples for nitrogen isotope analysis
R: Sediment sampling to identify key benthic habitats for our future experimental work

The research is focused on eight catchments in SE Queensland (Noosa, Maroochy, Mooloolah, Caboolture, Pine, Brisbane, Logan/Albert, and Nerang). In partnerships with Healthy Waterways, we're using these systems to figure out how changing land-use affects the proportion of the catchment's nutrients that are emitted as GHGs.

Surfers Paradise, QLD Pristine Noosa catchment
L: Urbanised mouth of the Nerang estuary in Surfers Paradise
R: Native vegetation covers ~30% of the Noosa estuary's catchment

Relevant Publications

Sri, A., B. D. Eyre, D. T. Maher, I, Santos, L., Golsby-Smith, P. Mangion and M. R. Hipsey. 2016. Stable isotopes enhance the performance of an estuarine biogeochemical carbon model. Environmental Modelling and Software 79, 233-255.

Murray, R., D. V. Erler, and B. D. Eyre. 2015. Nitrous oxide fluxes in estuarine environments: Response to global change. Global Change Biology 21, 3219-3245.

Ruiz-Halpern, S., Maher, D., Santos, I. and B. D. Eyre. 2015. Hydrological control on CO2 evasion in an Australian subtropical estuary downstream from a modified acidic floodplain wetland. Limnology and Oceanography 60, 42 - 56.

Maher, D. and Eyre, B. D. 2012. Carbon budgets for three autotrophic Australian estuaries: Implications for global estimates of the coastal air-water CO2 flux. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 26, GB1032.