A NEW facility on the Coffs Coast is set to play a major role in advancing research into carbon sequestration and pollution in Australia.
A radioisotope laboratory has officially opened at Southern Cross University's National Marine Science Centre, where researchers will use state of the art technology to investigate carbon sequestration in mangrove forests and marine systems.
Professor Isaac Santos said some of the instruments are the first of their kind in Australia and enable researchers to measure a range of natural and artificial radioactive chemicals.
"We specialise in the use of natural radionuclides that can date soil and sediment samples," Prof Santos said.
"We are reconstructing environmental histories dating back 150 years which is exactly the time scale of many environmental issues currently being debated.
"This is an outstanding facility that puts SCU in a great competitive position."
Dr Christian Sanders said key questions of research included where carbon comes from, where it goes, and if carbon sequestration is impacted by climate change.
He said findings could have significant ramifications for the preservation of sensitive marine environments.
"Sequestering carbon in marine ecosystems has the potential to become a major accounting tool in future carbon economies," he said.
"Because mangroves lock up lots of carbon, we have good reasons for preserving them, not draining mangroves or building houses on top of them."
Funding for the project was granted by the Australian Research Council.
The radioisotope laboratory is also being used as a hub for research from other universities across Australia and overseas.
Trace quantities of radioactivity are found in all natural substances and can be used to understand the behaviour of specific processes, such as the global carbon cycle.
By looking at the quantities of some trace elements, researchers can improve their knowledge and understanding.