Blooming clever

Phosphate Awareness Project projects are usually hands-on, but they’ve adapted. Photo by Natasha Bowden.

COVID-19 restrictions have not stopped Natasha Bowden teaching local schools and communities how to stop damaging nutrients from entering the Swan and Canning Rivers and surrounding wetlands. 

During social distancing, the environmentalist has used YouTube to teach pupils about the Phosphate Awareness Project, which aims to decrease the amount of phosphate and nitrogen loads and algal blooms in Perth’s waterways.

Ms Bowden says people can reduce the amount of nutrients entering waterways through drains and runoff by using less fertiliser, growing native plants that require little or no fertiliser, picking up dog poo, and not feeding birdlife.

“We must ensure the only thing that goes down the drain on their street is clean rainwater.”

Funded by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, the project has been going since 1998 and includes school excursions to the Swan-Canning catchment.

“With the onset of Covid-19 and the restrictions put in place to limit community transmission we are no longer able to engage with groups of people and so can’t deliver our message face-to-face,” Ms Bowden says. 

“So, like many other organisations, we have had to adapt to the circumstances and think of ways we can still get the message out to people.

“Nothing beats real-life engagement with people, however we can still provide them with something that gets them thinking about the environment and what they can do to help protect it.” 

Before the pandemic, pupils in Fremantle, Melville and Cockburn were given native vegetation to plant around their schools.

The South East Regional Centre for Urban Landcare has partnered with several community groups including Friends of Booragoon and Blue Gum Lakes, Friends of Wireless Hill, and Cockburn Community Wildlife Corridor.

Ms Bowden says they help them organise volunteer events to revegetate, weed and do anything, “that will ultimately improve the vegetation in and around wetlands and rivers, ensuring less fertiliser, and therefore nutrients are needed to maintain these environments.” 


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