Marine environmental monitoring in New Zealand

NIWA contacts: 
External people involved: 
Mary Livingston, Ministry for Primary Industries Mark Costello, University of Auckland Joanne Ellis, Cawthron Institute Vicky Froude, Pacific Eco-logic Ltd

 

Long-term datasets that track persistent change in the environment are a critical component of any modern ecosystem-based approach to natural resource management and sustainable growth.

As a result, NIWA has built the New Zealand Catalogue of Marine and Environmental Monitoring Programmes, which holds information about data owners and their contact details, variables monitored, where they are collected and how often.

More information on the New Zealand Catalogue of Marine and Environmental Monitoring Programmes 

The issue

The data from these datasets provides context for policy development around management actions, spatial and temporal planning, and a basis for looking ahead at different scenarios. Long-term monitoring can:

  • define the state of the environment
  • capture variability and any underlying long-term change
  • provide feedback on the efficacy of management actions
  • provide the opportunity to determine early warning signals of approaching catastrophic changes.

The data collected generates ideas that can be used to develop hypotheses and improve models.

The approach

Marine environmental monitoring for a variety of purposes is carried out in New Zealand by a range of organisations: research institutions, universities, stakeholders and local and central government agencies.

The data can be difficult to locate and is usually stored within the collecting organisation. Workshops held during the Ministry for the Environment's Environmental Monitoring Forums highlighted the need for a more co-ordinated approach to marine datasets. 

MPI initiated a process in 2010 to identify and log the marine datasets collected across the country, and assess their potential for long-term monitoring and identify gaps.

This information is delivered via a website that provides an inventory of marine environmental datasets which currently exist in New Zealand. It also provides links to additional sources of information, such as the marine biosecurity catalogue.

Marine biosecurity catalogue

In addition:

  • the Ministry for the Environment began a project in 2011, Monitoring and Review Project – Towards an Integrated Monitoring System for the Resource Management Act, which is now in its second stage

More about Monitoring and Review Project – Towards an Integrated Monitoring System for the Resource Management Act 

  • in 2012, Statistics New Zealand completed an overview, Stocktake for the Environment Domain Plan: 2012, of environmental statistics and data including coastal and marine datasets. The stocktake will feed into the Environmental Domain Plan, to be released in 2013

More about Stocktake for the Environment Domain Plan: 2012 (PDF 1.5 MB)

  • the Department of Conservation has also set up monitoring programmes in most marine reserves around New Zealand.

The result

To begin the process of building a robust Marine Environmental Monitoring Programme for New Zealand's marine environment, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) commissioned NIWA to build an online meta-database (inventory) containing high level information about time-series data that have been, or are in the process of being, collected from New Zealand's marine environment.

This database – the New Zealand Catalogue of Marine and Environmental Monitoring Programmes - holds information about data owners and their contact details, variables monitored, where they are collected and how often.

New Zealand Catalogue of Marine and Environmental Monitoring Programmes  

Variables presently monitored in New Zealand vary from broad-scale information such as sea surface temperature collected by satellite, through fish species data collected by fish trawls, to fine-scale information such as benthic macrofaunal species collected by cores. 

Page last updated: 
15 July 2015
Magelona dakini - a small polychaete - is found in a number of regions around New Zealand's coastlines. [Judi Hewitt]
Magelona dakini abundance variation over time. [NIWA]
The New Zealand EEZ is characterised by a pronounced north-to-south decrease in upper ocean temperatures as evident from this satellite image, with warmer subtropical waters in the north being separated from cooler subantarctic waters to the south by an oceanic front –the Subtropical Front.