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Researchers aim to measure carbon footprint


Brigid Veale
20 November 2007
A new research project under way on the NSW North Coast will determine how ‘carbon-friendly’ the macadamia industry is and pave the way for a more detailed measurement of the region’s carbon emissions.

Researchers from Southern Cross University’s Centre for Regional Climate Change Studies in the School of Environmental Science and Management have begun initial investigations to assess the carbon footprint of macadamia plantations as part of a longer-term study to measure carbon output across a range of regional and rural industries.

Associate Professor Graham Jones, the Centre director, said it was becoming increasingly important to be able to measure the carbon footprint within the horticultural industry in the Northern Rivers region.

“We really need to be doing an audit of these industries to find out their carbon footprint,” Professor Jones said. “Many of our regional industries could stand to gain
as soon as the Australian government puts a price on carbon emissions.

“When this happens carbon audits will be necessary. At present we do not have a system for accurately auditing carbon, other than offsetting our carbon activities with forestry plantations.”

Professor Jones said a preliminary study had looked at carbon sequestration at the Deenford macadamia farm, near Ballina.

This study undertaken by staff from the Centre, the Australian Forest Corporation, the University’s Centre for Sustainable Forestry and the Australian Macadamia Society in Lismore, has measured the value of the carbon stored in the macadamia trees, and intends to offset this against the carbon emissions generated through the production process.

“We also intend to see if we can co-generate renewable electricity by using the macadamia husks – a process being trialled by Suncoast Gold Macadamias in Gympie - to offset carbon emissions even more,” Professor Jones said.

“This initial study may show that the Northern Rivers macadamia industry is carbon-neutral or even carbon-friendly. We are now seeking further funding from the Australian Research Council to extend this project across the entire North Coast macadamia industry,” he said.

“We need to apply this science to everyday industries and start accounting for carbon. A lot of industries are making claims about carbon emissions, but no-one is really checking.”

Professor Jones said the Centre for Regional Climate Change was involved in a range of research projects spanning forestry, water, climate, soils, plant-climate interactions, resource planning and education and geo-spatial analysis.

The Centre was recently awarded $408,000 from the Australian Antarctic Research committee to investigate cloud seeding chemicals in the Antarctic sea ice. The study aims to gain a better understanding of the role of sea ice in the climate system. It will also investigate whether these same cloud seeding chemicals are present in some of the Northern Rivers native vegetation.

“The Centre is ideally placed to educate regional communities and industry about climate change, and to seek solutions and opportunities for the future. While there is increasing emphasis on climate change at a national and international level, we want to ensure regional and rural communities are not left behind,” Professor Jones said.

He said the recent announcement of a $50 million national climate change adaptation research facility, to be hosted by Griffith University, was a positive step.

“We are well placed to be a part of this national network, with particular emphasis on the needs and opportunities for northern NSW.”

Photo: Associate Professor Graham Jones.