New research by Southern Cross University suggests coastal estuaries play a more important role in carbon capture than previously thought.
New research by Southern Cross University suggests coastal estuaries play a more important role in carbon capture than previously thought. Adam Hourigan

SCU offers vital research data for climate change debate

ESTUARIES may be more important than previously thought in capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.

New research from Southern Cross University's Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry Research has measured carbon flows and CO2 fluxes in three temperate Australian estuaries with a paper jointly published by Dr Damien Maher and centre director Professor Bradley Eyre.

"Knowing carbon fluxes from these ecosystems is important in understanding what will happen in the future as far as atmospheric CO2 concentrations are concerned," Dr Maher said.

"Global warming and other climate change issues like ocean acidification make carbon cycling an important topic to study."

To get a range of different conditions, the study examined the Hastings and Camden Haven River estuaries and the mouth of Wallis Lake.

Results from the study point to these estuaries being different in how they process carbon when compared to similar estuaries found throughout the world.

"In terms of carbon cycling, estuaries are normally heterotrophic, which means that they release CO2 to the atmosphere," Dr Maher said.

"These three estuaries are unique in that they are autotrophic, meaning they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.

"We believe this is driven by the high primary production associated with the extensive seagrass beds found in these ecosystems."

Dr Maher said the study showed that coastal Australian ecosystems may be helping to absorb CO2 put into the atmosphere through human activities.

The study also showed seasonal differences in CO2 absorption, with more CO2 being absorbed in the summer then during other seasons.



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