Seaweeds Could Help Re-energise Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – Study

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | April 24, 2014 3:01 PM EST

A study by scientists from the James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville in north Queensland has said that seaweeds could potentially help re-energise the environment around Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Seaweeds have plenty of nitrogen and phosphorus which can help clean the waste water surrounding the reef.

"Seaweeds pick up nitrogen and phosphorus to reasonably high levels and they clean the water. That removes the nitrogen and phosphorous so the water can be released and it also provides a product so the seaweed has some value," Rocky de Nys from the JCU's School of Marine and Tropical Biology, said.

Seaweed, also known as macro-algae, works as a natural filter in land-based fish and prawn farms, according to researchers. They said using these can help improve the quality of water in the surroundings before it even reaches the reef.

In fact, according to David Roberts from the JCU's School of Marine and Tropical Biology, they have used algae to eliminate contaminants in the industrial waste water at a coal-fired power station in south-east Queensland.

"The results have been really promising. We've actually shown that we can get most of those elements from concentrations well above regulatory limits to concentrations well below regulatory limits. So it's a really significant improvement in the way wastewater is managed," he told ABC.

"The other advantage of doing this work at power stations is we can actually take carbon dioxide from the power station's flue gas emissions and pump that into our cultures, and like any plant or photosynthetic organism, algae actually need that carbon dioxide to grow," Mr Roberts added. "So we're recycling carbon as well as treating a waste water problem at the same time."

Algae is created when there is too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water, Mr de Nys said. Essentially, when these are eliminated from the water by using seaweed will help destroy the crown of thorns starfish that's eating Queensland's Great Barrier Reef.

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