Impacts of Australian farm dams


Farm dams are the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters of all freshwater ecosystems, producing the equivalent to 385,000 cars each day in Victoria alone. Yet, the Australian Government lacks the capacity to monitor farm dams due to their small size and remoteness, and hence tackle their GHG footprint.


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.

In collaboration with the Blue Carbon Lab at Deakin University, I lead an interdisciplinary project 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.

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Deakin University,

Burwood VIC 3120, Australia

©2017 by Martino Malerba.