Accounting For Biodiversity and Carbon in Golf Courses (ABC-Golf)

 


Dr Sabine Nooten explains more about the team's research for Research Week 2015


Assessing the extent to which golf courses can act as biodiverse carbon stores within the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment area

Eastlakes golf club

The Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment Management Area (HNCMA) covers 21,400 square kilometres and includes the coastal beaches from Turimetta Headland to Barrenjoey and extends three nautical miles out to sea.

The Hawkesbury Nepean is a catchment of national significance, much of which relies on the health of its rivers. The number of people that depend on the Hawkesbury Nepean catchment for drinking water grows every year. The catchment also contains the largest quarry in Australia and supports extensive coal mining, horse breeding and turf industries and a major tourism industry.

There are over 4000 golf courses in the catchment, each averaging around 50ha. As well as providing green space in urban areas that has significant value for humans, golf courses offer important ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, animal refuge and habitat, pollination, carbon storage and wildlife corridors between pockets of bushland.

These important natural services are closely linked with biodiversity, which contributes to the health and stability of ecosystems as well as enhancing their aesthetic and nature conservation value.

Golf courses offer important ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, animal refuge and habitat, pollination, carbon storage and wildlife corridors between pockets of bushland...

The ABC-golf Project

This project will assess the extent to which golf courses can act as biodiverse carbon stores within the HNC area. We consider that biodiverse carbon stores require the optimisation of carbon storage potential in a biologically diverse, multi-layered landscape supporting a wide range of species.

This project therefore aims to:

  • Assess levels of biodiversity (plant, invertebrate, vertebrate) in different habitat types and relate these to management, climate and surrounding land use.
  • Quantify stocks of carbon (C) in relation to known drivers of C cycling and identify management practices that promote soil C accumulation.
  • Produce a set of knowledge-based recommendations for the optimisation of C storage and promotion of biodiversity – two key features that underpin healthy ecosystems and support the provision of ecosystem services - within the golfing landscape of the HNC.

Questions

We will test the hypotheses that, at the golf course level:

  • Plant and animal biodiversity is related to the size of non-playing areas, the level of structural complexity and surrounding land use.
  • C stocks vary across habitat types within golf courses and are highest at sites that are older and/or have greater structural complexity.
  • Low intensity management practices promote C sequestration within the standing biomass and associated soil C inputs lead to increased belowground C stocks.

Project Outcomes

The expected outcomes of the project are:

  • An audit of biodiversity in relation to habitat features and other environmental influences within golf course sites across the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment.
  • An inventory of C stocks across different habitat types, at golf courses across the catchment area.
  • Identification of the key drivers influencing C sequestration within golf course environments.
  • Increased understanding of the temporal dynamics of C storage (carbon fluxes in relation to stocks) in relation to management practices and habitat type.
  • Development of a C cycling toolbox to quantify C stocks at the site level that could be fed into life cycle assessment models to aid golf course management.
  • Improved understanding of factors influencing biodiversity within sites, and the relationship between carbon and biodiversity within the golfing landscape.
  • Knowledge-based recommendations for prioritising sites to enhance the contribution of golf courses to landscape scale biodiversity and C storage.

This project [P00021664] - "Accounting for Biodiversity and Carbon in golf courses within the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment area (ABC-golf)" is funded by the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Authority.