Australia 'Reef and Beef' Project Launched

AUSTRALIA - An Australian scientist has launched a 'reef and beef' study to determine whether feeding cows seaweed could reduce their flatulent carbon emissions, in a move that could help save the Great Barrier Reef.
calendar icon 7 September 2009
clock icon 1 minute read

Cattle produce up to 20 per cent of global methane emissions, largely as a result of their diet, said Tony Parker, from James Cook University. Methane gas from livestock accounts for 12 per cent of Australia's annual greenhouse emissions reports iClimate.

The average beef cow expels the equivalent of around 1,500 kilograms of carbon every year, said Mr Parker.

Mr Parker believes that seaweed, algae and other seaweed grasses have been proven to be much more digestible than land grass due to higher quantities of starch and less cellulose. A decrease in methane emissions could be achieved by better digestion and an improved diet.

Using seaweed for cattle feed may have other environmental benefits such as cleaning up waterways flowing into the Great Barrier Reef. Coastal farmers who previously used seaweed to remove nitrogen and phosphorous from water had no use for the biomass they were left with. Authorities have warned recently that nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus have been responsible for the breakdown of aquatic ecosystems in the Barrier Reef.

Mr Parker believes that the project has far reaching implications that come around in a circle, starting with seaweed, taking in the beef and aquaculture industries and returning back out to the sea.

Australia's government have committed to reducing emissions by at least five per cent of 2000 levels by 2020.

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