July 7, 2011

Alcoa Foundation invests in Peel-Harvey waterways

A new sustainable land use research project aimed at protecting wetlands and waterways in the Peel-Harvey catchment of Western Australia is underway, thanks to a US$355,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation.

The research, being managed by Greening Australia and led by the University of Western Australia, is investigating ways to reduce phosphorus from entering waterways through the innovative use of vegetation.

The Alcoa Foundation grant is a part of a US$4 million worldwide ‘Advancing Sustainability Research: Innovative Partnerships for Actionable Solutions’ initiative that is funding 10 sustainability research projects in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia and the United States.

Greening Australia’s National Partnership Manager Grey Mackay said the research was important because phosphorus in waterways can lead to algal blooms, which often result in fish kills.

“With the Peel-Harvey catchment being the most rapidly expanding urban area in Australia, new ways to manage our land will be required if agricultural profitability, quality of life and environmental health are to be maintained in this fragile area.

“Previous analysis has already identified phosphorous as the primary nutrient which must be targeted to improve water quality, and this research is specifically looking to uncover how and when phosphorous moves from paddocks into waterways and how vegetation can be manipulated or used strategically to reduce that phosphorous movement.

“In particular we hope to find out whether traditional pasture plants, perennial plants with pasture potential including natives, and native vegetation can absorb phosphorus at the time of the opening rains.

“Researchers hope to develop land use management plans which will ease nutrient loads in the water and allow for sustainable agricultural development that’s aligned with conservation priorities,” Mr Mackay said.

This project also aims to improve knowledge of soil nutrient and hydrological processes in key landscape types, and how these impact plant growth and the uptake of phosphorous. Researchers will develop management tools for farmers, as well as tools that local government can incorporate into future planning to ensure continued sustainable management of the area.

Alcoa’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs Brian Doy said Alcoa, as a member of the Peel-Harvey community, is committed to finding solutions to environmental challenges.

“Alcoa has a long history of striving to address environmental issues in partnership with community organisations, government, and academic institutions - and this research partnership is another example of that.”  

Last Thursday the many natural resource management groups working towards the common goal of improving water quality in the Peel-Harvey catchment were recognised during a celebration event at the Alcoa Landcare Education Centre (ALEC) in Yarloop. 

At the event, Federal Member for Canning Don Randall unveiled a ‘Partnerships in the Peel’ sign at ALEC to recognise groups including: Peel Harvey Catchment Council, Harvey River Task Force, Southwest Catchment Council, University of Western Australia, Alcoa Foundation, Alcoa of Australia and Greening Australia.

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Additional research background:
This research focuses on the Peel-Harvey catchment, a nearly 1.15 million hectare geographically diverse region 75km south of Perth. 

The Peel-Harvey catchment is an internationally recognised Ramsar-listed wetland.  The Ramsar Convention is a treaty which was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971.  It provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Media contacts:

Alcoa - Sarah Tempest
0404 800 417
 sarah.tempest@alcoa.com.au 

Greening Australia - Grey Mackay
0448 073 489
 gmackay@gawa.org.au