[ASC-media] Geoscience Australia: Coastal estuaries and chambers of secrets

Leharne.Fountain at ga.gov.au Leharne.Fountain at ga.gov.au
Tue Nov 18 11:22:43 EST 2003


Australian Government
Geoscience Australia

Coastal estuaries and chambers of secrets

For immediate release Tuesday, 18 November 2003

A team of scientists will converge this week on the Shoalhaven district in
NSW to investigate nitrogen cycling in St Georges Basin. The study is part of
Geoscience Australia's national focus investigating nutrient cycling in
estuaries around the country.

"Estuaries are a vital part of healthy coastal environments, acting as both
nurseries to juvenile marine species and filters for water before it enters
the marine environment," Emma Murray from Geoscience Australia said. 

"Agricultural and urban development in catchment areas can lead to excessive
amounts of nutrient runoff into estuaries.

"A build up of nutrients like nitrogen may cause water quality problems such
as low oxygen levels and excessive plant growth including toxic algal
blooms," Murray said.

The team's study is supported by the Shoalhaven City Council.

"Good water quality in estuaries is important for maintaining the
Shoalhaven's economic, ecological, and social values including fisheries,
recreation, tourism and biodiversity," Shoalhaven City Mayor Greg Watson
said. 

"The research results will contribute valuable environmental information to
guide our local management strategies such as the Urban Stormwater Management
Plan," Clr Watson added. 

The scientists will submerge water-monitoring chambers at five different
locations on the floor of the estuary. Water samples from the chambers will
be collected each hour to show how much nitrogen is released from the organic
matter in the sediments below. 

"Once we get the information from the different locations, we'll be able to
work out how the estuary is cycling the nitrogen and how well it is coping,"
Emma Murray said. 

"The five locations will probably show varying results as they're affected by
different factors such as the type of runoff coming from the catchment and
the chambers proximity to the estuary mouth.

"The final results will help determine how much nutrient loading the estuary
can handle and may also help environment managers to improve water quality
and determine land management practices in adjacent catchments," Murray
added. 

The team will also take sediment core samples to establish St Georges Basin's
evolution and ecological habitats.  The NSW Environment Protection Authority
and Wollongong University are collaborating with Geoscience Australia in the
study.

For more information, to arrange an interview and/or for images, please
contact:

Samantha Lucia - Science Communicator, Geoscience Australia on
02 6249 9438 or 1800 882 035 (24 hour media hotline)

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