UNE receives $38,000 for innovative environmental research

Published 01 July 2011

env-grant-bloggUNE has been awarded funding from the NSW Government’s Environmental Trust for two exciting research projects that will help to better understand, prevent and measure environmental impacts.

A grant of $19,500 has been awarded to Professor Martin Thoms, of Geography and Planning in the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, to investigate ecological thresholds and river health in NSW.  This research will take the novel approach of examining fish specimens collected in the past. By measuring their carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios, he hopes to establish a series of food webs that will enable comparison of food webs that existed in the past to those in rivers today.

‘Once established, we can investigate the influence of a range of environmental disturbances, like drought, on our river systems,’ Professor Thoms said.  His approach is based on cutting edge, collaborative research which is currently examining rivers in the United States and which will create a ‘timeline’ of river health.

A grant of $19,160 has also been awarded to research the role National Parks currently play in carbon storage and also where carbon storage in National Parks can be enhanced to contribute to mitigation. The project will be undertaken in collaboration with the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) by Associate Professor Brian Wilson and Dr Lalit Kumar of the School of Environmental and Rural Sciences.

Using existing spatial data, this project aims to estimate current carbon stocks (soil and vegetation), to delineate areas where land is suitable for management to enhance carbon storage, and to provide a “first approximation” of carbon storage potential across NSW National Parks. This will also provide a conceptual and practical framework for a more extensive and refined carbon inventory.

Associate Professor Wilson said that, to date, much of the attention relating to carbon sequestration has been focused on the agricultural and forestry sectors but National Parks are an extensive, publicly owned asset that has the potential to sequester large quantities of carbon in soils and vegetation. They might therefore offer a number of effective strategies for carbon storage, consistent with biodiversity conservation, that have been somewhat overlooked to date and for which information is largely lacking.

In announcing the approval of the seeding grants, the NSW Minister for the Environment, Robyn Parker, said they were ‘for innovative research to test creative ideas that might lead to significant breakthroughs in managing our natural environment’ and could be used to test a theory or concept that may be used for a larger research project in the future. She added that the research would also ‘tell us where to concentrate rehabilitation efforts to ensure environmental health.’