Team:Hong Kong HKU/Project


Project At a glance

ONE of the Biggest Environmental Problem – Phosphate Pollution

Phosphorous (P) is an essential macronutrient for all organisms and plays a part in almost all life processes. Apart from its important role in life’s metabolic activities, inorganic phosphate, in excess, can demonstrate serious environmental and ecological problems. In particular, water bodies’ enrichment with phosphate makes a critical contribution to eutrophication process, which has developed into a serious water management problem throughout the world.

As the main drainpipe of thrived economy in Guangdong Province, China, the Pearl River Estuary is suffering from serious eutrophication as a result of urbanization and industrial emission of nitrogen and phosphate.

The phosphate concentration in the water near Shenzhen Bay was the highest in Pearl River Estuary, which was over 30μgl-1. This implicated that land-based pollutants near Shenzhen Bay contributed to phosphate pollution greatly.

Skyrocketing population expansion and intensive farming are the major causes leading to the collapse of the natural phosphorous cycle. Excess amount of phosphorous enter the system, passing through crops, animals and humans, eventually ending up in landfill or in the aquatic environment. Eutrophication induces excessive growth of algae or higher plants (algal bloom), which further lead to many water quality problems, including oxygen depletion, increased water purification costs, a decline in the amenity and conservation value of waters, loss of livestock and the possible sublethal effects of algal toxins on humans using eutrophic water supplies for drinking. Focusing on improving phosphate removal efficiency in the sewage treatment, We, HKU iGEM 2013 team, are trying to prevent eutrophication using Synthetic Biology.