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Southern Cross University receives $900,000 for coastal research


Brigid Veale
28 September 2007
Southern Cross University has been awarded more than $900,000 from the Australian Research Council for research projects investigating climate change and coastal ecosystems.

The Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Honourable Julie Bishop, announced the funding for the ARC Discovery and Linkage projects this week.

Southern Cross University was awarded a total of $660,000 in the highly-competitive Discovery scheme for two projects led by Professor Brad Eyre, to investigate nutrient and carbon cycles in coastal ecosystems.

A project, led by Dr Richard Bush, to asses the impacts of climate change on coastal floodplain wetlands received funding of $246,000 through the ARC Linkage scheme.

Professor Neal Ryan, Southern Cross University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Research, said it was a tremendous achievement to receive funding for these projects.

“This is an extremely competitive process and is an excellent result for Southern Cross University. It really demonstrates our growing reputation for high-quality research that will have national and international significance,” Professor Ryan said.

Professor Eyre’s two projects will begin next year. The first project, focusing on muddy sediments, will be carried out in the Brunswick Estuary and the second, focusing on sandy sediments, will be done in the Great Barrier Reef and the southern part of Moreton Bay.

“What we are interested in is how carbon and nutrients flow through biogeochemical processes and the lower food webs of coastal ecosystems. One of the big stresses on our coastal ecosystems are the nutrients coming from human activities such as agriculture and wastewater. It’s really important to understand how the nutrients are cycled through these systems,” he said.

“The research will have direct implications for the management, rehabilitation and protection of coastal waterways.”

The projects will be done in collaboration with Professor Jack Middelburg, from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology; Dr Joanne Oakes, a post-doctoral fellow at Southern Cross University; and Professor Ronnie Glud, from the Scottish Association of Marine Science.

Dr Richard Bush will lead a collaborative project to determine the impact of climate change and increasing sea levels on coastal floodplains and wetlands.

“Sea levels are predicted to rise this century posing a threat to low-lying coastal floodplains. These floodplains and wetlands are particularly vulnerable as they are already close to or below the mean sea level,” Dr Bush said.

“We are going to be looking at the soil and water health in these areas, how they respond to sea water and what the consequences will be.

“What we find will be relevant to coastal floodplains throughout the world. We will be developing a model that will help us predict the impact of climate change and put us in a better position to mitigate those impacts.”

The project, which will start in early 2008, is being done in collaboration with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), the Richmond River County Council and the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority.

The project team includes Southern Cross University researchers Dr Scott Johnson, Professor Leigh Sullivan and Dr Ed Burton, and Dr Peter Slavich from NSW DPI.

Photo: Dr Richard Bush in front of an acid-sulfate soil profile on the banks of the Potomac River in Marylands, USA.