April 12th, 2019
Dr. Art Gold, a professor of watershed hydrology at the University of Rhode Island, spoke at Log Lunch today about the degradation of Fiji’s coral coast due to excess nitrogen. High levels of nitrogen entering the coastal waters results in Sargassum algae blooms, which are deadly to the delicate corals and cause a decline of fish and other species that the reefs support. Interestingly, the decline of the corals is correlated with the rapid increase of tourism in Fuji over the past two decades. During his time in Fiji, Dr. Gold worked in collaboration with local communities and universities to determine the source of the excess nitrogen and develop a remediation plan.
The researchers’ inventory of possible nitrogen sources included tourist resorts, traditional agriculture, and local villages. Resorts, contrary to what they expected, were not the largest nitrogen source; most resorts thoroughly contained and treated wastewater in order to irrigate the tropical gardens that appeal to tourists! After further investigation, Dr. Gold discovered that concurrence of declining fisheries and booming tourism created market for meat in Fiji, which had not existed before. In response to this demand, local communities had begun to raise pigs in pens that emptied waste directly into the sea – contaminating the coastal waters with both dangerous pathogens and high levels of nitrogen. Dr. Gold was able to work with the communities to implement sustainable, composting “piggeries,” set back from the shoreline, which are still in use today.
—Wyndom Chace ’17