ARC funding to improve carbon storage in wetland systems

Published 10 May 2016

Professor Scott Johnston
Freshwater wetlands in the Murray-Darling and Great Lakes catchments in New South Wales will be the focus of a Southern Cross University research project investigating ways to improve carbon storage in wetland systems.

Led by Professor Scott Johnston from Southern Cross GeoScience, ‘Maximising carbon sequestration in freshwater wetlands’ received $401,000 through the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects scheme, announced on Friday (May 6). The project will be conducted in partnership with Great Lakes Council and the Murray Local Land Services.

“Wetlands are among earth's most efficient ecosystems for storing carbon, yet they can also be large sources of methane - a potent greenhouse gas,” Professor Johnston said. “This balance, between carbon storage and methane emission, determines whether wetlands are net sinks for carbon.”

Professor Johnston said most of the research in this field had been based in the Northern Hemisphere, with limited studies examining Australia’s unique and highly seasonal freshwater wetlands.

“These are very dynamic systems. We are looking at two things. One is gaining a good understanding of the net carbon storage within these systems and how effective they actually are at sequestering carbon. This will lay a solid foundation for carbon accounting,” he said.

“The second is understanding how iron and sulphur cycling influences methane production in these freshwater wetlands. We will look at how we can manipulate water levels to alter sulfur and iron cycling, which in turn can inhibit methane emission and improve net-carbon sequestration.

“There is growing interest within Australia about capitalising on opportunities for carbon biosequestration though restoring degraded freshwater wetlands. It can be a genuine win-win that potentially provides organisations with a source of income for locking up carbon as well as helping them improve water quality and enhance biodiversity outcomes.”

Professor Johnston said the two regions had been chosen to provide a contrast between coastal and inland freshwater systems. Other researchers on the four-year project include Professor Ed Burton, Professor Isaac Santos, Dr Damien Maher, all from Southern Cross University, and Dr Peter Macreadie from Deakin University.

Southern Cross University’s Professor Mark Hughes, from the School of Arts and Social Sciences, is also part of team led by La Trobe University which received $296,000 ARC Linkage funding for a project titled ‘Reducing health disparities for older LGBTI Australians'. This project is in partnership with COTA Australia Ltd, National LGBTI Health Alliance, Carers Australia Inc. and Sane Australia.

Professor Geraldine Mackenzie, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research), welcomed this latest round of ARC funding.

“Southern Cross University continues to receive funding for projects which will have a significant national and international impact. We are known for our world leading expertise and contributing to solving problems around climate change, natural resource management, food security, health and wellbeing and social welfare,” Professor Mackenzie said.

Media contact: Brigid Veale head of Communications and Publications, Southern Cross University, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.