Breadcrumbs

Through the lens of isotopes

27 November 2018

Dr Adam Hartland. Photo Credit Garry Smith.

Dr Adam Hartland is planning to establish what the environmental impact of the heavy metal cadmium is on New Zealand’s agricultural and aquatic systems.

The Waikato Regional Council estimates that around 8.3 tonnes of cadmium is currently applied to Waikato soils each year, with the largest single source being superphosphate fertiliser.  Cadmium is a naturally occurring, toxic, non-essential and biologically cumulative heavy metal.  Dr Hartland has been award a Ministry of Business Innovation and Enterprise Smart Ideas grant to get a better grasp of its impact on the country.

If cadmium builds up to high enough levels in soils, land has to be classified as contaminated and can’t be used for growing food. Dr Hartland says there is currently evidence to suggest cadmium accumulation is slowing or plateauing in certain areas. “If we’re still applying fertilizer loaded with cadmium, if it is not accumulating in the soil, it is going somewhere else. So we’re looking at how much of a problem it is, monitoring [cadmium] levels in groundwater and lakes, but also doing controlled experiments to see if it can leach out of the soils depending on what land practices you use - like whether you irrigate, or spread effluent on your land.”

The research will use isotope ratio analysis, which gives more certainty about whether the cadmium is from fertilisers or is natural. Dr Hartland says the research can help inform the debate about cadmium’s environmental impact. “We’ll be able to advise regulators about whether it is a problem or not. MPI runs a Cadmium Working Group, so we can directly inform policy through that mechanism. We’re also looking at the Te Aroha Lakes to see whether cadmium is making it that far, and  whether it’s accumulating in fish, which is of value to the local community and iwi.”

The two year project will include experiments on soil samples from three different parts of the country, and a range of ground and fresh water monitoring. It will also look at the accumulation of organisms in lakes, by sampling different aquatic organisms like fish and eels.



Latest stories

Related stories

Ahuroa Leach

Scholarship recipient researches affordable energy for impoverished communities

Unleashing the power of waves and wind to provide affordable electricity to New Zealand’s most…

Science alumna wins prestigious conservation award

Science alumna, wetlands expert and advocate Dr Beverley Clarkson has been awarded the Loder Cup…

Engineering student’s drive to succeed

Tom Miller admits the decision to quit his job, move from Auckland to Hamilton and…

Scholarship empowers women in STEM

Engineering student Isobella Nicholls and Computing and Mathematical Science student Courtney Wilson are the inaugural…

Medalists

2021 Hillary Medalists named

Two alumni, Courtney Richmond and Tim Neild, have been named as the 2021 Hillary Medalists…

Professor Taciano Milfont

Waikato appoints three new Professors

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley has announced promotion to Professor for three academics,…

Vic Arcus web

Battling cattle bloat

Why are some cows more susceptible than others to bloat? Scientists think a single protein…

PhD student

University of Waikato researchers to lead seaweed farming trials in Hauraki Gulf and Bay of Plenty

University of Waikato researchers’ Dr Marie Magnusson and Dr Rebecca Lawton will receive $1.2 million…

Dr Deniz Özkundakci

Toihuarewa – Waimāori Chair in Lake and Fresh Water Science appointment confirmed

Toi Moana Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the University of Waikato have appointed Dr…

asparagus picker

Roadmap launched to grow NZ’s robotics industry

With robotics and automation set to replace 46 percent of day jobs by 2040, a…

Steve Hodgkinson

Alumnus working at the forefront of new immunity support against Covid-19

University of Waikato alumnus Dr Steve Hodgkinson is CEO at RuaTech where he is part…

sir-william-lady-judi-gallagher

Sir William and Lady Judi Gallagher announce further support for University of Waikato with new scholarship

Hamilton philanthropists Sir William and Lady Judi Gallagher will fund eight new scholarships a year…