07 Mar 7 WAYS VETIVER GRASS TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP PROTECT THE GREAT BARRIER REEF!
The Great Barrier Reef is under threat, this cannot be denied. The threat is so immense that the Queensland Government has offered 3 million dollars to innovators in water treatment systems to protect the Reef. But nature, the ultimate innovator of all, has already created an effective answer, Vetiver grass.
With roots stronger than most tree roots, the ability to improve soil fertility and absorb elevated toxicities in soil and water, Vetiver is both a protector and rehabilitator. A tool designed by nature with the capacity to minimise our human footprint. Vetiver System Technology (VST), exclusively based on the use of Vetiver grass, can effectively protect the Great Barrier Reef and begin the process of reversing the damage.
The three main threats facing the Great Barrier Reef are:
Climate change is the most visible threat to the Reef. The rise in ocean temperatures has resulted in an increased occurrence of mass coral bleaching, which is further threatened by the gradual acidification of the ocean. With climate change comes an increase in the chances of intense weather events, including cyclonic winds and flood plumes, which impact the Reef ecosystem, placing it under immense pressure, weakening its resilience and ability to recover.
LAND BASED RUNOFF:
Over clearing and erosion has led to fine sediment with trapped chemicals, fertilisers, heavy metals and other pollutants pouring into the Great Barrier Reef, greatly affecting the quality of the water that flows into the region. ‘At least 12,114 kilograms of herbicides are introduced into the region each year from diffuse source agricultural runoff’ (2014 Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report). The enhanced levels of sediments and nutrients that are entering the Reef, suffocate the ecosystem, threatening its resilience and survival. This continued exposure creates chronic pressure on the Reef further compounding its inability to recover.
Ongoing human coastal living and development has resulted in the alteration of natural coastal habitats. This includes constructing harsh artificial barriers on coastal waterways, exposing of acid sulphate soils and deforestation for major industry. Cattle, sugarcane, cotton, banana and rice farming industries have produced the agrochemical runoff destroying the Reef. These changes impact the natural processes of the environment and diminish the capacity of these coastal regions.
HOW VETIVER SYSTEM TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP PROTECT THE GREAT BARRIER REEF:
Vetiver System Technology is uniquely qualified to tackle many of the issues affecting the Great Barrier Reef, especially in controlling the sedimentation causing offsite pollution and toxicities that are suffocating it. Vetiver grass technology is a protector and rehabilitator, which can help restore the natural environment surrounding the Reef.
- EROSION & SEDIMENT CONTROL
With roots that grow to vertical depths of 4+ metres, possessing a tensile strength of 75 MPa, which is approximately 1/6th of mild steel reinforcement, and the capacity to improve soil shear strength by 45%, you would be logical in thinking that Vetiver was designed for soil stabilisation and erosion control purposes. As the dense, deep and penetrating root system of Vetiver interlock, they create vast underground wall systems that reinforce and bind the soil, ensuring its protection against erosion. Soil Safety Factor on slope with 300-450 gradient increases from 2.9 to > 9 when protected by Vetiver System Technology.
The exceptional root system of Vetiver grass combines with its stem network to work both above and below ground, to ensure erosion control and steep slope stabilisation. The strong, thick and stiff stems create hedges, which dissipate wind and water energy, slow down water flow, trap sediments and control water runoff. These hedges act to protect the topsoil, ensuring that it remains in place and overtime create natural barriers to flow by trapping soil and sediments.
The application of Vetiver Grass would serve to combat erosion, ensuring soil stabilisation and trapping sediments, protecting the Great Barrier Reef from the devastating fine sediments that are creating havoc for its fragile ecosystem.
- AGROCHEMICAL POLLUTION
Vetiver is uniquely adapted for environmental rehabilitation and protection, due to its high tolerance of elevated and toxic levels of herbicides, pesticides, salinity, alkalinity, and acidity. Vetiver possesses the ability to absorb elevated nutrient levels, especially Nitrogen and Phosphorous, which are the two main and most common agrochemical pollutants upsetting the balance of the Reef ecosystem, creating an increase in algae growth, crown of thorn starfish, and susceptibility to coral bleaching.
Vetiver System Technology addresses agrochemical pollution in two ways by trapping and absorbing toxicities. The long, thick and stiff stems of Vetiver grass trap fine organic and inorganic sediments with attached fertilisers, pesticides and heavy metals, and remediates these contaminants, reducing or eliminating them from the environment. The roots serve to create underground dams that can absorb toxicities from water flows. Vetiver can effectively treat 170L/m2 per day, reducing average total Nitrogen from 68mg/L to 0.13mg/L, average total Phosphorous from 11mg/L to 0.15mg/L and Faecal Coliform from > 8 000/mL to <10/mL (Watts Bridge, Esk). Vetiver has been successfully applied for this very reason on both Cotton and Sugar Cane farms in Queensland.
With the capacity to trap sediments, and absorb and remove nutrients and pesticides, preventing them from entering waterways that feed into the Great Barrier Reef, Vetiver can effectively protect the Reef and the regions waterways and catchments.
- WATER QUALITY
Vetiver’s capacity to remove Nitrogen and Phosphorous extends from land-based situations to wetland and hydroponic conditions also. Vetiver is a hydrophyte, which means it can snorkel air from parts of the plant that are above the water, making it resilient to flooding, and an ideal plant to be applied to reduce and remove pollutants from farm ponds and dams, drainage canals and polluted stagnant wetlands.
It is crucial to protect the waterways and catchments that feed into the Great Barrier Reef, ensuring the rehabilitation and protection of the entire coastal ecosystem, which is being suffocated by the agricultural and urban land based pollutant runoff. Vetiver System Technology can be applied to trap, treat and absorb these offending toxicities on effected waterways, uniquely addressing the requirements of both land and water rehabilitation.
Vetiver is uniquely designed to address the specific issues afflicting the Great Barrier Reef and its surrounding waterways, as it will trap sediments and pollutants, stopping them from polluting our waters, whilst also remediating the land and water of these toxicities. This ultimately leads to the improvement of water quality in the catchments and waterways leading to the Reef.
The unique morphological and physiological attributes of Vetiver grass allow it to assist in the sustainable revegetation and reforestation of the entire Great Barrier Reef Coastal ecosystem, which is essential for its long-term rehabilitation and protection. The root system of Vetiver grass removes contaminants in soil through its ability to provide and create favourable conditions for soil microbial activity and growth in the rhizosphere of the roots (space around the roots). What this means, is that Vetiver increases soil fertility, by natural recycling, capturing leached nutrients in subsoil and bringing them up to the soil surface, allowing it to act as a necessary nurse plant to prepare the soil for natural native revegetation.
Australian native species are predominately adapted to the natural unpolluted and clean Australian environment and therefore struggle to survive with the increase in toxicities, herbicides, pesticides and heavy metal contaminants in the soil, which are the result of our current land use practices. It is important to note that Vetiver poses no threat to the native Australian environment, as it is sterile, having no above or below ground runners. Therefore, Vetiver has no weed potential, which allows it to be shaped and applied for specific use, making it the perfect tool to work in conjunction with Australian natives to revitalize and protect the entire Great Barrier Reef ecosystem.
- WETLAND RESTORATION
Vetiver is the ideal plant to assist in the restoration of damaged wetlands in the Great Barrier Reef region. Its ability to address erosion and sediment control, stopping runoff from reaching wetland areas, combined with its capacity for soil and water conservation, and water quality improvement make it the perfect tool to help rehabilitate land and water for wetland restoration.
Similar to the process of using Vetiver System Technology for reforestation purposes, in a wetland scenario, Vetiver can act to protect and restore the environment to a more natural system conducive to the return of endemic wetland species. Improving water quality and protecting the region from sediments and pollutants is necessary for the revitalisation of natural wetland ecosystems, including the return of native fauna and flora.
Long-term sustainable protection of the Great Barrier Reef depends on how we rehabilitate and protect all systems within the region, which feed into the Reef itself. Vetiver System Technology serves as the ultimate tool to address water-based rehabilitation and protection needs.
- AGRICULTURAL IMPROVEMENT
Vetiver has the capability to improve land use practices. Through the application and use of Vetiver Grass Technology, Vetiver addresses erosion and sediment control, improves water harvesting, whilst also treating onsite and offsite pollution in an environmentally harmonious and natural manner. Not only can Vetiver act to protect the Great Barrier Reef from agrochemicals but it can also address the diverse needs of agricultural cultivation.
The capacity of Vetiver to assist in creating long-term sustainable agricultural practices comes down to its multi-faceted agricultural applications. From protecting land and crops against erosion, to conserving soil moisture, and aiding in the development of efficient nutrient cycling, as it acts to improve soil fertility. This nutrient recycling capability lends itself to long-term sustainable agricultural productivity and improvement.
Vetiver System Technology is clearly an exceptional tool to assist in the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. It offers effective long-term solutions for environmentally harmonious agricultural development and allows for continued agricultural practices that work in balance with the needs of the surrounding environment.
- CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION
As the results of worldwide Vetiver System Technology applications have been effectively demonstrated, it is apparent that it has the capability to play a pivotal role in reducing the effects of climate change. Its ability to rehabilitate land and soil allows it to reverse environmental damage, supporting further vegetation and assisting in the recreation of functional ecosystems.
The most natural act of any plant species is to sequester carbon dioxide, capturing it from the atmosphere and storing it in their stems, roots and the soil, whilst releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. Vetiver’s extensive and deep root system, and massive biomass production (130 tons dry matter/ha/year) make it a perfect grass for the sequestration and storage of greenhouse gases. Vetiver not only stores carbon dioxide but also stores and prevents the emission of other gases into the atmosphere, such as sulphur, methane, ammonia, and nitrous oxide.
Through the application of green and environmentally harmonious bioengineering and phytoremediation tools, we can restore and protect waterways, erosion hotspots, coastal wetlands and the Great Barrier Reef, whilst acting on a larger scale to restore the ecosystems that have been destroyed and ultimately assisting in beginning the process of climate change mitigation.
THE SCIENCE: VETIVER SYSTEM TECHNOLOGY, A PROVEN SOLUTION
The extraordinary attributes of Vetiver System Technology make it a real life solution, which has been proven by extensive worldwide research, development and application over the past 40 years. Vetiver System Technology has been successfully used to rehabilitate coral reefs in Vanuatu, the Philippines and Guam. It is now time to apply this solution to rehabilitate and protect the Great Barrier Reef, before it is too late!