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Wetland restoration can tackle water pollution and help our Reef

The biggest source of water pollution in our Reef’s waterways is the overuse of nitrogen-containing fertilisers on agricultural land.

Sugarcane farming contributes 78% of the nitrogen runoff flowing into our rivers and streams. Nitrogen pollution threatens the survival of inshore coral reefs and seagrasses, which are essential habitats for iconic wildlife like dugongs, turtles and inshore dolphins.

Our governments have set specific targets, aiming to reduce nitrogen pollution to levels that our ecosystems can tolerate.

Regulations and voluntary land practice change alone will not meet the targets. Further urgent action is needed to reduce nitrogen pollution to a level that ensures the health of our coastal ecosystems and the Reef.

Wetlands are very effective at reducing water pollution. Research shows that restoring wetlands in 5% of land at the edge of sugarcane farms can slash nitrogen pollution by up to half.¹

Since wetlands are natural water filters, they reduce pollution that runs off agricultural land into waterways and out into the Reef. They also protect our coastlines from extreme weather events and act as a buffer against climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and storing it for thousands of years.

Coastal wetlands have unique superpowers to help tackle the biggest threats to the Great Barrier Reef like climate change and water pollution.

Add your name to an email to the federal Minister for the Environment, highlighting how wetland restoration can cut water pollution and boost the health of our Reef.


Source: ADAME, M. F., KAVEHEI, E. 2021. Ongoing efficiency of nitrogen processing in treatment wetlands of the Wet Tropics. Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, ARI Report No. 2021/004

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