Farm dams in Australia have recorded some of the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per m2 among freshwater environments (Ollivier et al. 2018). Farm dam emissions represent a notable portion of overall agriculture emissions in Australia and are further exacerbated by fertiliser and manure run-off which increase nutrient loads, creating ideal conditions to produce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) (Malerba et al. 2022a, Malerba et al. 2022b).
To better understand the contribution of farm dams to climate change, the Blue Carbon Lab is developing innovative techniques to improve the monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions from Australian dams.
Pondi sensors for greenhouse gas emissions monitoring
Researchers at Deakin’s Blue Carbon Lab (Dr Martino Malerba) collaborated with the University of Queensland (Dr Alistair Grinham) and LeadingEdge Engineering (Blake Edwards) to develop the Pondi. This is a low-cost greenhouse gas sensor designed to float atop wetlands and farm dams and provide real-time data on greenhouse gas fluxes, measured in parts per million. Pondi sensors allow researchers to monitor farm dam emissions on unprecedented temporal and spatial scales. This technology will help deliver nation-wide assessments on the contribution of farm dams to the national carbon budget.
Pondi sensors allow Blue Carbon researchers to monitor farm dam emissions in real-time and are a cost-effective management tool.
The Pondi sensors are specifically designed to monitor CH4 and CO2 emissions, with a selection of sensors being able to incorporate the measurements of N2O. These cutting-edge sensors use mobile connectivity that allow long-term monitoring with access to the data in real time.
Putting the Pondi sensors to the test
Recently, Blue Carbon researchers Dr. Martino Malerba and Joshua Glen began field testing Pondi sensors on two separate properties near Main Ridge and Yea, Victoria. The scope of this field study was to implement and refine effective deployment techniques for Pondi sensors and collect regional emissions data. To further understand how nutrient run-off effects farm dam emissions, farm dams were placed into two distinct categories: dams promoting livestock-exclusion (fencing), and dams with available livestock access.
Research Joshua Glen deploying the first on the new Pondi sensors at a property near Yea, Victoria.
The deployment of a Pondi sensor near Main Ridge, Victoria.
The goal of the Pondi sensors is to allow ease-of-use and accessibility to any labs, organisations, or landowners who wish to be a part of this ground-breaking study. For the Blue Carbon Lab, the ability to deploy and manage many Pondi sensors at once will allow further expansions into regional New South Wales and Queensland in the future.
This program is financially supported by BHP.
Keep an eye out for further updates on this project!