Tea bags used for out of the box science experiment in Nelson

Source: 1News

In Nelson residents have turned into citizen scientists for an out of the box experiment to see how well wetlands store carbon.

In December last year, 960 tea bags were planted by volunteers in Nelson estuaries as part of a global study looking at how much they decomposed. The more decomposed the teabags are, the more carbon they released.

The experiment's driving force is Nelson City Council coastal and marine scientist Vikki Ambrose who says it's been a long but rewarding experiment.

"Everything that we're doing is working towards climate change, trying to reduce the amount of carbon that's in the atmosphere," Ambrose says.

Ambrose is pleased to see how residents have got on board. "I thought a lot of people would be put off by getting super muddy but they're all here and they're all digging and it's good".

The teabags were planted across various locations in Waimea Inlet and Nelson Haven, with Ambrose using a GPS to find some of the trickier ones when it came time to dig them up.

One they're found they're bagged, dried for a few days, cleaned and weighed. Ambrose compares the weights to what they weighed before they were planted.

The data of how decomposed the teabags are will be analysed over the next few months before it's ready in September.

The information will show how healthy the wetlands are and help council's decision making around future restoration projects. "If we know a particular area is more likely to sequester the carbon than release it then we'll actually plant in those areas," Ambrose says.

Eventually the data collected in Nelson will be added to the global project, currently involving 30 countries. There's 300 sites across the globe where more than 19,000 teabags have been planted.