April 8, 2011
Bioengineering With Vetiver Grass
Mohammad Golabi, a soil science professor at the University of Guam, has put his years of research on vetiver grass to practical use in shielding the reefs in Pago Bay from the harmful effects of construction-induced run-off.
One of the major health hazards facing Guam's reefs is soil erosion resulting in sedimentation and suffocation of the complex organisms that make up a reef system. "Vetiver's ability to tolerate high stress situations, adapt to a variety of conditions, develop a dense vertical root system, and powerful soil binding characteristics make it an ideal candidate for controlling soil erosion," says Golabi.
In this pilot project, Golabi in cooperation with the developers planted vetiver grass along a Pago Bay beach area adjacent to a tract of land that had been cleared for a new housing project. Fully developed vetiver seedlings were planted in contour rows along the beach without disturbing the aesthetics of the area. The plants established in a few months, forming a thick hedge that prevents sediment from water-borne erosion from flowing into the ocean.
"It is also expected that these vetiver hedges may even be able to protect the beach area against tidal surge once their root systems are well established. These hedgerows clearly demonstrate that the vetiver grass system is a unique, economical and effective bioengineering technology for protecting coral reefs from further degradation in the Pago Bay area and may be applied to other sites around the island," says Golabi.
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