Australian Farm Dams
Australian Farm Dams
Farm dams are artificial ponds that are used in agriculture to secure water for irrigation, stock, and domestic purposes. But their unique properties make them a hotspot for methane (CH4) emissions – a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).
First, farm dams are rich in nutrients from fertilizer or manure run-off. Second, their shallow nature promotes microbial respiration, (CO2) build-up, and ideal conditions for methanotrophic bacteria. Third, they warm up rapidly, boosting metabolic rates and bacterial accumulation.
We are currently leading interdisciplinary research across IT, Engineering, and Environmental Sciences to develop satellite tools to monitor Australia’s farm dams and their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. The goal of this project is to explore new management strategies and engage with stakeholders to discuss incentives for greener practices.
To facilitate sharing information with the Government, scientists, managers, and the local community, we developed AusDams.org: a free interactive portal to visualise the distribution of farm dams and generate statistics for any area of Australia.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) emissions from reservoirs and natural ponds have been well studied, however, the GHG emissions of highly abundant, small‐scale (<0.01 km2) agricultural dams are still unknown. We measured the diffusive CO2 and CH4 flux of 77 small agricultural dams within south‐east Australia. Results showed:
Malerba ME, Wright N, Macreadie PI (pre-print). A continental-scale assessment of density, size, distribution, and historical trends of Australian farm dams
Ollivier QR, Maher DT, Pitfield C, Macreadie PI (2019) Winter emissions of CO2, CH4 and N2O from temperate agricultural dams: fluxes, sources and processes. Ecosphere. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.2914
Ollivier QR, Maher DT, Pitfield C, Macreadie PI (2018) Punching above their weight: Large release of greenhouse gases from small agricultural dams. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14477
Dam gases equivalent to a car (The Weekly Times, Australia | Nov 2018)
This work has been led by Dr Martino Malerba from and Dr Quinn Ollivier from Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab.
Project partners include Corangamite Catchment Management Authority; Southern Cross University; Australian Govt – Dept. of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources; Govt of Western Australia – Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Sustainability and Biosecurity.