Underwater Carbon Farming Project
Dr. John Statton
UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Seagrasses (marine flowering plants) are one of the most important carbon capturing and storing (carbon sequestration) habitats. Globally, we have lost over one quarter of seagrass coverage and therefore we have lost a substantial capacity to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. One method to regain this carbon sequestration capacity is to re-plant or re-seed seagrasses back into denuded areas – a form of carbon farming but underwater!
Oceans Institute researcher Dr John Statton from Plant Biology was approached by South Fremantle Senior High School teacher Julie Miller to teach and work with students on an underwater carbon farming project.
South Fremantle Senior High School grabbed Australia’s attention a few years ago when they announced they had successfully implemented a Carbon Neutral Project (beginning in 2007), and subsequently became the first ‘carbon neutral’ school in Australia. They achieved this by (i) reducing fossil fuel use, (ii) implementing renewable energy projects and (iii) capturing carbon emissions through tree planting.
The underwater carbon farming project (see weblink below) aimed to teach students (year 11), who were all Rescue SCUBA-diver qualified, the rigours of designing and implementing a scientific research project, working under-water with seagrasses, and working under-water as a team. The re-planting project was located in Jervoise Bay, Western Australia in 3 meters water depth and focussed on teaching the students how to identify, collect and process the seagrass Posidonia australis or ribbon-weed, and plant shoots within two contrasting habitat types; bare sand and remnant seagrass matte (fibrous material left behind after seagrass dieback). One year on from the initial planting, some of our shoots were present.
“The under-water carbon farming project provided the students with a sense of achievement once the planting was completed and fostered the appeal of under-water research and it’s potential for helping humanity”.