Seminar Presented By: Dr Steven Lucas
The Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment
Dr Lucas has over 15 years’ experience in soil and water research ranging from wastewater reuse for irrigation projects, contaminant export studies, urban water quality investigations and catchment hydrology projects.
This presentation briefly reviewed what soils are, where they came from and how they respond and behave in the environment. Land use practices over time has altered natural soil forming processes and the challenges of providing water and nutrients to cropping soils has changed soil structure and caused erosion. In just over 160 years, an average of 2 meters of soil has been lost through wind and water erosion and global trends are similar. What happens when the soil disappears? Recent research into “new generation” soils has shown that organic-based soils have great potential for removing pollutants and providing growth substrates for a range of uses such as mined land rehabilitation, biofiltration devices in urban runoff management, and/or for use in filter-bale configurations to improve water quality.
NEWCASTLE WETLAND CONNECTIONS was a 4-year federally funded project as part of the Caring for our Country program, and ran from 2013 to 2017. The project aimed to improve the condition, function, resilience & biodiversity of urban waterways in the Ironbark Creek catchment, in particular Boatmen Creek. The creek is a highly modified aquatic corridor that flows from the top of Braye Park through the University’s Callaghan bushland campus and freshwater wetlands, which ultimately flow into environmentally significant Ramsar-listed freshwater wetlands at the Hunter Wetlands Centre.
The project was delivered with fourteen partners including land managers, community groups & education institutions.
On-ground works were undertaken to stabilise erosion, remove sediment, control sediment & nutrient inputs, treat weeds & install native vegetation. The project featured education to engage the local community, and employment and training for indigenous bush regenerators.
The project was led by WetlandCare Australia and completed by Conservation Volunteers Australia following the merger of the two organisations in July 2015.
Newcastle Wetland Connections project had three major themes:
SUSTAINABILITY is more than just a buzz word to win the advertising dollar or to justify a business practice.
Sustainability is the way to the future for our planet.
The roadmap for Australia and indeed the world to follow was updated in 2015 when the 193 countries of the United Nations adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda.
Each SDG has specific (stretch?) targets to be achieved by 2030. For these goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society and you the readers of this article. The SDGs not only have a key goal of eradicating extreme poverty but also have a much wider agenda bringing balance to each country’s economic, social and environmental agendas.
In partnership with the University of Newcastle and the City of Newcastle, the United Nations has established an international training centre for disaster risk reduction led by Associate Professor Graham Brewer.
CIFAL Newcastle will also serve as UNITAR's base for capacity building in relation to sustainable development across the Pacific region.
Further to this the University has recently developed a range of post-graduate programs that offer specific training for the future knowledge and skills needed to achieve these SDGs by 2030.
The UN certified Graduate Certificate in Disaster Risk Reduction and the Master of Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development provide graduates with the knowledge to manage the DRR process across all sectors of society.
With every dollar spent on disaster resilience there is a saving of up to seven dollars in future economic losses, it’s not just good for the planet, but communities and businesses as well.
The Master of Environmental and Business Management, Master of Environmental Management and Sustainability and the Master of Environmental Risk Assessment and Remediation round out this suite of degree programs that provide professional development in the areas of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Newcastle Herald 5/6/17
May Super Saturday Session May 13 report
This was another fantastic, informative day! The walls of the Industry Development Centre at Newcastle University were covered in Gregg Heathcote’s magnificent photos, Pam O’Sullivan’s information posters and Heidi Prichard’s glass photos. Several tables were covered with Pam’s extensive range of fungi species of all shapes and sizes. The room was abuzz with almost 50 people trying to get a grip on fungi!
Professor Tim Roberts, of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, welcomed us in his usual friendly manner and invited us to listen to lectures and to visit the nearby Herbarium in small groups. Many of us were amazed by the modern lecture theatre but even more enthralled by Pam O’Sullivan’s “One Hundred Things You Should Know About Fungi” with notes and photos.
Fungi are not plants or animals, they tend to reproduce by spores, we only see a small part of the fungi above ground, there are over 90,000 species described to date but perhaps 1.5 million species exist and they are the second most diverse major group of organisms on Earth! Some get their energy and nutrients by breaking down organic material, others by symbiosis. Mycorrhizal fungi are associated with 90-98% of plants. Orchids are dependent on fungi. Fungi are fundamental to healthy ecosystem functions and we should increase our knowledge and understanding of this amazing fungi world.
“Can we eat them?” asked someone. “Yes. All of them once!” was Heidi’s reply!
Heidi Prichard, an environmental science student, and Pam lead a fungi walk. Along with Tim’s help, we saw varied species of fungi, all of them quite small. We often admired the pretty ones and didn’t notice the bland ones until our attention was drawn to them. The big, in-your-face fungi were fruiting last month! But of course, we all know that they are still there, under the ground!
Those who visited the Don McNair Herbarium were impressed with what they saw and heard. Don saw it as a “history of the flora in Australia.”
Prof Roberts spoke to us about Australian agriculture pre and post 1788 with information for new material for the school curriculum. He recommended “Dark Emu” by Bruce Pascoe, which tells of Aboriginal agriculture pre-European times. It has been found that they baked breads 15,000 years ago, they sowed and irrigated crops and built dams. He also spoke about the reintroduction of bilbies to areas in South Australia which have been cleared of cats and foxes...and sheep. So much information, so little time!
We shared morning tea and lunch in the spacious forum of the IDC , whilst viewing fungi and gleaning information from experts. Thank you to everyone involved especially Professor Roberts for making this venue available to us.
Winsome Lambkin- Coordinator SSS for LMLVN
The Lake Macquarie Landcare Volunteer Network would like to acknowledge Hunter Local Land Services for providing funding for this workshop.