Our research

The research involved teams at NIWA, the University of Auckland, the University of Canterbury, and the Cawthron Institute. Methodologies range from qualitative data collection via participatory workshops, quantitative data collection via online surveys, and development of tools to assist in integrative management processes. Some highlights include the two web-based surveys that were developed, and survey results were used to define adaptive capacity and management responses to cumulative effects. Other tools were developed to assist in addressing cumulative impacts, and engagement of stakeholders in decision-making for the marine estate. These tools have been presented through poster content at project workshops, and disseminated at a number of regional, national and international venues through presentations, symposia, and keynote presentations.

Future Projections

One of the things we need to know is what we are actually dealing with in the future. There is government information on what the future will look like for population numbers, infrastructure and demand for resources. A few of these aspects were collated and the consequent ecological footprint highlighted in these posters of Auckland, New Zealand and global projections.

Auckland projections

New Zealand projections

Global projections

Auckland projections

New Zealand projections


Global projections


Ecosystem Services

While humans have always depended on ecosystem services like clean water and nutrient cycling, historically these services have been taken for granted. Generally there has been poor understanding of what end products are dependent on ecosystem services, and of managers and government regarding what nature is providing, and how ecosystem services are being degraded. One important aspect of the ecosystem services approach is that it brings many non-market services to the forefront, through providing better understanding of the variety of processes provided by nature, upon which marine ecosystems are dependent. For example, snapper as a recreational and food resource is easily recognised as a service provided by coastal marine ecosystems in northern New Zealand. However, many people may be unaware of the ecosystem services that support snapper life cycles (eg. habitat structure that supports nursery habitats; coastal vegetation that assist in sediment retention and accumulation of land-based pollutants to minimise their dispersal into areas important for snapper).

Ecosystem Services Balancing Act

Ecosystem Health Human

Ecosystem Health Services

Ecosystem Services Balancing Act


Ecosystem Health Human

Ecosystem Health Services

Climate Change

As climate change occurs it is understood that there will be many environmental changes, such as increases in sea level and temperature. What is less understood is the actual meaning of this to coastal ecosystems, coastal communities and provision of services. The consequences are complex and range from more frequent intense storm events to changes in ocean acidification that may decrease oceanic production, and decrease populations of animals with carbon shells that have key roles as food resources, as habitat structure, and in nutrient regeneration. In Marine Futures, we are examining how these physical changes in climate will affect how ecosystems function. We are translating broad global metrics of climate change to localised measures that correspond directly to impacts at the scale of both human and ecological communities.

Chatham Rise

Hauraki Gulf

Climate change Chatham Rise


Climate change Hauraki Gulf

Modelling/Management Tools

Ecosystems are complex and most models used in management of the marine environment are sectorial, and based on managing for a particular resource (e.g. fish) or environmental process (e.g. water quality), and rarely include links with land-based impacts on the coasts and oceans. In Marine Futures, we have developed models that build on sectorial approaches, but include other key aspects of management such as social-ecological dynamics (human interactions with the marine environment), land-based impacts, and links between ecosystem components (e.g., food webs). One model has developed a qualitative approach to examining interactions between ecosystem components on the Chatham Rise, able to explore key questions such as: what might happen if climate change results in decreased productivity? How would increasing disturbance to the seafloor due to either fishing or mining change seafloor communities? Another model is exploring seafloor disturbances, looking at how different rates of trawling or other impacts on the seafloor can be managed to maximise recovery and maintenance of seafloor communities and the ecosystem services that they provide, including as food and habitat for renewable resources such as fish. A third modelling tool is one for snapper in the Hauraki Gulf. This tool allows us to explore potential scenarios that will impact on snapper abundance. For example, the model includes aspects of land-based impacts such as changes in dairying and other land-use change that have downstream effects of coastal water quality through input of sediments and nutrients that may result in declining marine ecosystems. The snapper model also includes links to drivers of changes in recreational fishing effort, such as increasing populations in Auckland, and increasing economic prosperity, which is predicted to increase fishing pressure.

HG Snapper

HG Snapper

Cumulative Impacts

Acute impacts on our environment are often relatively simple to see and therefore assess the consequences of. However cumulative impacts are much harder to identify, with many happening over such long periods they are not even noticed. And yet they may be still be approaching a tipping point, where an ecosystem may be altered beyond recognition and very costly and difficult to restore if possible at all. Our work on cumulative effects is taking a very different approach to those promulgated overseas, and considers impacts on various elements of marine biodiversity and, importantly, how changes in biodiversity feed back on the way that stressors impact the ecosystem.  In the first year of the project, we discussed and trialled the use of this risk assessment framework in two stakeholder workshops in Auckland and Wellington (involving resource managers, policy makers and environmental lawyers). In 2014/2015, we developed a survey that allowed us to populate this risk assessment with international expert opinion on cumulative effects and the potential to detect thresholds in marine ecosystems.   

 

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Archived on 5 April 2019