Algae can treat your wastewater and then fill up your tank - A Clean Green 2-for-1

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Just what are algae capable of? According to researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology, just about anything short of mixing a cocktail. They can clean your wastewater, fuel up your car, and then help grow a fish for your dinner.

Associate professor of biological sciences Jeff Lodge (click here for more information) says his team of researchers initially had more modest aspirations: they were interested in producing biodiesel from algae and were looking for a cheaper source of nutrients to grow the algae. Other researchers had previously grown algae in wastewater from dairy farms, and municipal wastewater seemed worth a try as well.

“And we found out our algae just love it,” Lodge says of the wastewater from two nearby municipal treatment plants. “Then it just kind of struck us, well, what are they doing to the wastewater?”

The team measured the nutrient levels in the water and found that after about three days of growth, the algae remove virtually all of the undesirable compounds such as ammonia, phosphate, and nitrate. In addition, they deplete carbon dioxide from the water, which raises the pH - and kills off pathogens.

Professor Jeff Lodge and graduate student Eric Lannan explore algae as a biodiesel fuel
Professor Jeff Lodge and graduate student Eric Lannan explore algae as a biodiesel fuel

To carry out the treatment, the researchers simply add algae to a tank or pond of wastewater and wait. The approach probably wouldn’t be suitable for large, urban plants that must rapidly process high volumes of water. But it could be helpful in rural communities, especially where rapid exurban growth is straining the capacity of existing plants. And since it requires minimal infrastructure, it could also be used in poorer countries where wastewater treatment is currently lacking.

After a few days, the team pumps the water out of the tanks, dries out the algae, and then processes the algae to remove the lipids—the raw material for biodiesel. The rest of the algae biomass can be used in aquaculture, burned in a biodigester to produce methane, or converted into ethanol. None of these ideas is entirely new, but the team has combined a number of existing green technologies in a tidy, cradle-to-cradle system. “We’re using the whole algae for everything and there’s no waste at all,” Lodge says.

Sarah DeWeerdt - Conservation Magazine

World's oceans in 'shocking' decline

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By Richard Black - Environment correspondent, BBC News 20 June 2011

The oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists.

In a new report, they warn that ocean life is "at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history".

They conclude that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognised.

The impacts, they say, are already affecting humanity.

Coral reefs are subject to "multiple stressors" that could destroy many within a human generation. Photo IPSO
Coral reefs are subject to "multiple stressors" that could destroy many within a human generation. Photo IPSO

The panel was convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), and brought together experts from different disciplines, including coral reef ecologists, toxicologists, and fisheries scientists.

Its report will be formally released later this week.

"The findings are shocking," said Alex Rogers, IPSO's scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University.

"As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised.

"We've sat in one forum and spoken to each other about what we're seeing, and we've ended up with a picture showing that almost right across the board we're seeing changes that are happening faster than we'd thought, or in ways that we didn't expect to see for hundreds of years."

These "accelerated" changes include melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, sea level rise, and release of methane trapped in the sea bed.

Fast changes

"The rate of change is vastly exceeding what we were expecting even a couple of years ago," said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a coral specialist from the University of Queensland in Australia.

"So if you look at almost everything, whether it's fisheries in temperate zones or coral reefs or Arctic sea ice, all of this is undergoing changes, but at a much faster rate than we had thought."

But more worrying than this, the team noted, are the ways in which different issues act synergistically to increase threats to marine life.

Some pollutants, for example, stick to the surfaces of tiny plastic particles that are now found in the ocean bed.

This increases the amounts of these pollutants that are consumed by bottom-feeding fish.

Plastic particles also assist the transport of algae from place to place, increasing the occurrence of toxic algal blooms - which are also caused by the influx of nutrient-rich pollution from agricultural land.

In a wider sense, ocean acidification, warming, local pollution and overfishing are acting together to increase the threat to coral reefs - so much so that three-quarters of the world's reefs are at risk of severe decline.

Carbon deposit

Life on Earth has gone through five "mass extinction events" caused by events such as asteroid impacts; and it is often said that humanity's combined impact is causing a sixth such event.

The IPSO report concludes that it is too early to say definitively.

But the trends are such that it is likely to happen, they say - and far faster than any of the previous five.

"What we're seeing at the moment is unprecedented in the fossil record - the environmental changes are much more rapid," Professor Rogers told BBC News.

"We've still got most of the world's biodiversity, but the actual rate of extinction is much higher [than in past events] - and what we face is certainly a globally significant extinction event."

Some species are already fished way beyond their limits - and may also be affected by other threats. Photo Getty Images
Some species are already fished way beyond their limits - and may also be affected by other threats. Photo Getty Images

The report also notes that previous mass extinction events have been associated with trends being observed now - disturbances of the carbon cycle, and acidification and hypoxia (depletion of oxygen) of seawater.

Levels of CO2 being absorbed by the oceans are already far greater than during the great extinction of marine species 55 million years ago (during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum), it concludes

Blue planet

The report's conclusions will be presented at UN headquarters in New York this week, when government delegates begin discussions on reforming governance of the oceans.

IPSO's immediate recommendations include:

  • stopping exploitative fishing now, with special emphasis on the high seas where currently there is little effective regulation
  • mapping and then reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilisers and human waste
  • making sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions

Carbon dioxide levels are now so high, it says, that ways of pulling the gas out of the atmosphere need to be researched urgently - but not using techniques, such as iron fertilisation, that lead to more CO2 entering the oceans.

"We have to bring down CO2 emissions to zero within about 20 years," Professor Hoegh-Guldberg told BBC News.

"If we don't do that, we're going to see steady acidification of the seas, heat events that are wiping out things like kelp forests and coral reefs, and we'll see a very different ocean."

In the long run, greenhouse gas emissions must be cut to conserve ocean life, the report concludes. Photo AFP
In the long run, greenhouse gas emissions must be cut to conserve ocean life, the report concludes. Photo AFP

Another of the report's authors, Dan Laffoley, marine chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas and an adviser to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), admitted the challenges were vast.

"But unlike previous generations, we know what now needs to happen," he said.

"The time to protect the blue heart of our planet is now."

By Richard Black - Environment correspondent, BBC News 20 June 2011

Freshwater Expo and Conservation Conversations, Taipa and Oruru

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Transition Town Movie Night this Friday June 10

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10th June 2011 @ 6.30pm

Introduction to Permaculture Design

Join Geoff Lawton as he takes you into the world of Permaculture Design and introduces you to a new way of looking at the world. Based on the 72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate Course, devised by Bill Mollison, learn how to apply your design skills by observing, analysing and harmonizing with the patterns of Nature.

Discover the theory and then see the examples in action in this unique DVD. Essential information for anyone interested in learning more about Permaculture and how they can apply it in their daily lives to create sustainable abundance.

Venue: Far North REAP

All welcome – koha only

Bring a plate - join us for light supper

And then……Eco Building & Site Plannning Workshop

Saturday 11th June 2011 @ 10am 

Lake Ngatu

(please Contact Far North REAP for information to register)

Far North REAP, 33 Puckey Ave, Kaitaia,

09 408 1380,


More Planting At Lake Gem, Friday June 17

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Arbor Day Rescheduled

About 20 hardy souls turned out to mark Arbor Day with tree-planting at Lake Gem on Friday. A brisk wind and the threat of rain kept the schools away but a good 900 trees made it into the ground before the stinging rain drove all contenders into Paparore School, where tea and sausages soon revived them.

A second planting day has been scheduled for Friday June 17 and hopefully this will be a better day for the children to come and participate.

All are welcome to come and help on the rescheduled day.

Same time and place: start at far end of Lake Ngatu

DoC will again provide a barbeque for hungry workers

the Bushland Trust invites you to:



To Celebrate Arbor Day 2011, the Bushland Trust will be continuing the restoration of the Sweetwater Lakes with a community tree-planting day.

When: Friday June 3rd, from 10am

Where: Meet at the south end of Lake Ngatu

Bring: Sturdy footwear. Spade if you have one.

Lunch will be provided by the team from DoC

All welcome! See you there!

Mara Kai: Blessing of new Learning Centre, 10am Wednesday, June 1

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Tena Koe

The ‘Mara Kai’ Community Garden project is a joint venture being delivered to the community by Te Hauora O Te Hiku O Te Ika, Transition Towns Kaitaia and the Far North Environment Centre.

We invite you to the ‘blessing’ of the newly built whare wananga/learning centre

First Kumara Harvest!
First Kumara Harvest!

Date: Wednesday, 1st June 2011

Venue: Mara Kai Community Garden, next to Te Hauora O Te Hiku O Te Ika, 49 Redan Road (Opposite Redan Road Dairy) Kaitaia

Time: 10am

Following the blessing you are invited to join us on a tour of the garden, sample dishes made from produce recently harvested and learn about the vegetable ‘Yakon’ (which is great for diabetics).

Please note that the garden is open regularly each Wednesday from 10am to 1pm and all are welcome to come along, do some mahi and share the kai.

Nau mai, Piki mai, Haere mai

For more information contact either: Soozee

Far North Environment Centre, Pukepoto Road

Ph 09 408 1086 



Rikki Rolleston

Te Hauora O Te Hiku O Te Ika

09 4084024 

49 Redan Road 


Eco Building & Site Planning - Saturday 11th June

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Saturday 11th June 2011
@ 59A,B,C Sweetwater Road, Lake Ngatu
(7km north of Awanui, off West Coast Road)


Three sites – three homes – multiple methods – one workshop!

Permaculture design & Earth Building IN ACTION:

  • Site 1 – being developed using permaculture design principles – how and why the design evolved.
  • Site 2 – a completed pressed brick family home – talk with the owners about it and how it has worked for them.
  • Site 3 – alternative materials, power supplies & passive heating – followed by:
  • A Forum with the Experts including Grant Steve, Clem Urlich and others who have worked on numerous projects in NZ and abroad using different earthbuilding techniques.

Part of a workshop series on practical ways of living more sustainably

All welcome – gold coin koha only

To pre-register please contact REAP on 09 408 1380, or pop into 33 Puckey Avenue, Kaitaia.

Far North REAP in partnership with Transition Town Kaitaia & Ahipara Whareuku Rammed Earth Housing Project

Also join us and be inspired at our FREE Friday Night Film Night

@ Far North REAP, Kaitaia

Friday 10th June 6.30pm

“hands-on ways of living cheap & healthy”

Waiora Hokianga Events

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For information on upcoming Waiora Hokianga Events please click on the PDF download link below:

Waiora Hokianga Flyer 22052011.pdf

More information please contact:

Natalie Glover
Apōpō Consultants
P: 09 401 8801
M: 027 600 4237
To email Natalie click here