The world runs on carbon, fueling human energy needs through hydrocarbons and driving food webs. Professor Connolly and his team from the Australian Rivers Institute investigate two key aspects of carbon movement.
Professor Rod Connolly
This is one of our projects on carbon in coastal wetlands. Carbon is the essential element of life it drives food webs yet at the same time it’s also behind the major changes happening to our climate.
We use naturally occurring chemical traces such as stable isotopes of carbon to map the food web. Here we are measuring the amount of algae living on the mud. This is consumed by the crabs and then onto the fish that eat those crabs. Today I’m quantifying the living biomass of crabs and other animals in the mangrove forest. Like this guy. This research will help build a sustainable fishing industry which is one of the most important protein sources on the planet. It is all about how carbon and plant matter decomposes and either drives marine food webs it becomes stored in the wetlands sediment.
But the other side of this research is looking more closely at where carbon is captured and stored. This blue carbon is often stored for hundreds or even thousands a year a lot of the world’s carbon is sequestered in the sediment of the mangrove, seagrass and saltmarsh in a thin green strip around the world’s coastlines. This project is a large collaboration with the CSIRO which is a Australia’s chief research agency.
We’ve already revealed key pathways for carbon in coastal wetlands but there is so much more we urgently need to know to better understand and manage these beautiful environments.
So come and get involved!
Project 1: Blue carbon
Many of the world’s coastlines are surrounded by a thin green strip of coastal wetlands (seagrass, saltmarsh and mangroves). These habitats sequester carbon rapidly, potentially locking it in marine sediments for hundreds to thousands of years. We investigate how sequestration varies from place to place, and how management of human activities can enhance the process.
Project 2: Food webs and sustainable fishing
Tracking carbon movement through the ecosystem using stable isotopes allows us to determine key energy pathways of coastal wetlands. We can then focus conservation efforts where they will be most effective, supporting sustainable fisheries and biodiversity objectives.