Prof. Huashou Li (front row, sixth from left), Prof. Kin-Chung Ho, Professor Steven Loiselle, Professor Zhang Yuchao, Ms. Malini Thadani, Head of Corporate Sustainability for HSBC Asia Pacific (front row, sixth, fifth, fourth and third from right respectively).
Leading scientists present water quality research from Earthwatch’s FreshWater Watch programme in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
Since 2012 Earthwatch has been training residents of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Guangzhou to study fresh water quality as part of the global FreshWater Watch citizen science programme. Earthwatch and leading freshwater scientists from Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Guangzhou presented their FreshWater Watch research at the Open University of Hong Kong to FreshWater Watchers, university students and local stakeholders.
FreshWater Watch is Earthwatch’s global citizen science programme investigating the health of waterbodies. With only one per cent of the world’s fresh water accessible for all our needs, scientists need to know about the health of ponds, rivers and streams that they are not able to monitor without the help of volunteers. With almost 8,000 FreshWater Watchers around the world carrying out simple scientific tests on their local waterbodies Earthwatch is building a picture of global freshwater health on a scale never seen before and help improve methods of protecting water.
Earthwatch’s global freshwater research manager, Professor Loiselle said “The work of the citizen scientists in these three cities has been great, with nearly 1,500 measurements to support the ongoing research of leading scientists in these rapidly expanding cities.
“We are gaining new insights to the sustainable management of our environment and its most precious resource – water.
“Within the global programme, for every hour each scientist has spent training a participant, there is an average of 7 hours of monitoring being performed, a 700% return on time invested.”
Professor Zhang Yuchao of the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, lead scientist on FreshWater Watch’s Tributaries of Shanghai research showed how massive urban expansion has occurred over the last decade and identified the impacts of this expansion on the tributaries of the Huangpu River in Shanghai. FreshWater Watch research is showing a strong link between urban land cover and increased nitrate concentrations. In fact, nitrate concentrations are the highest in Shanghai of the three cities. Luckily, the forest and wetland areas of Shanghai have remained intact, but more will need to be done to avoid further impacts on water quality.
Professor Li Huashou and Dr. Adela Li of South China Agricultural University, presented their findings from FreshWater Watchers on the Following Guangzhou’s Waters project. FreshWater Watch data and laboratory measurements show the impact of agricultural pollution on ecosystems and some possible solutions. Reducing fertiliser and pesticide use in agricultural practices has been shown to not only reduce phosphate concentrations and livestock pollution in waterbodies, but will also increase crop yield. The first indications of improvement were seen in the FreshWater Watch measurements and these are continuing.
Professor Ho Kin-chung and Dr. Fred Lee of the Open University of Hong Kong, showed the results of FreshWater Watch study on algal blooms in Discovering Hong Kong’s Algae project. Using the data collected by citizen scientists, Professor Ho’s team were able to identify the distribution, identity, and biodiversity of algae in various freshwater bodies in Hong Kong. Local FreshWater Watchers great efforts have allowed them to identify, for the first time, when peaks in algal production occur and what may be driving them.
Prof. Steven Loiselle, Earthwatch’s global freshwater research manager, said, “The enthusiasm and dedication of our citizen scientists is inspirational. Their support is allowing our partner scientists to meet research goals that could never have been met in the past.”
Earthwatch, Prof. Li, Prof. Ho and Prof. Zhang are now working together to combine strengths and identify a way to predict where water quality degradation may occur, to support better urban planning and land management in these growing cities. Keep watching this space for our preliminary results in the coming months.
These research projects are part of Earthwatch’s FreshWater Watch and the HSBC Water Programme.