Hunting for teabags in a swamp – It’s just like searching for a needle in a haystack

Every year, just after Christmas for the past three years, I’ve made a special trip in search of… no, not post-Christmas bargains… buried treasure! This year was the third and final year of such adventures, and I took my visiting rellies for a scenic drive down to some beautiful, soggy, prickly and rare Fleurieu Swamps. Armed with gumboots and a shovel we headed into the swamp, through a paddock (which is often home to a boisterous bull, thankfully not today!) in search of buried tea bags. Why? NGT is part of a global experiment in carbon sequestration called the Tea Bag Index, in association with Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab.

You may remember from an earlier blog post three years ago, when we first buried the unsuspecting green tea and rooibus teabags. Three years on and the last batch has seen the light of day. Excitingly, the first year’s results from our region are in the final stages of publishing in the journal Science of the Total Environment, shedding light on decomposition rates in freshwater and coastal wetland systems in four climates in Australia. Congratulations to Dr Stacey Trevathan-Tackett for leading the project and the long list of contributing researchers. These data will contribute to our understanding of wetlands and the global carbon cycle.

This year my treasure was particularly elusive. After plodding about for thirty minutes or so over the same patch of soggy ground scratching my head, I tried the GPS one last time. “They should be just here!”, I exclaimed for the fiftieth time. I bent down and halfheartedly pushed aside some of the sedges, and with a stroke of luck, there was a tiny fragment of faded blue marking tag! I found them! Those cheeky kangaroos had decided the tags must be no good, and had bent, broken and pounded them into the ground. Luckily the metal rod for each marker was still intact at soil level and we could retrieve our tea bags with a few muddy scoops. Now time for a bakery stop on the way home, phew.

Tessa Roberts