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2012 Award Winner Seeks To Save NZ’s Eroding Coastline

January 6, 2012

2012 Award Winner Seeks To Save NZ’s Eroding Coastline

A German University of Victoria Wellington Doctoral student hopes to find ways to overcome one of this country’s significant environmental challenges - the continuing erosion of coastal sand dunes.


Susanne Krejcek has won the 2012 Quinovic-sponsored Dune Restoration Trust Study Award to help her research new options for increasing native biodiversity on our sand dunes to reduce erosion.


Thirty year-old Ms Krejcek was originally studying law at the University of Frankfurt when she decided to visit New Zealand for a surfing holiday in 2002.


Keenly interested in biology, she was so impressed by the tourism, conservation and environmental projects she experienced while travelling in Department of Conservation managed regions – she decided to change career!


Returning to Germany she studied for the equivalent of a Masters Degree in Landscape Ecology at the University of Oldenberg, and visited here again twice for research.


Ms Krejcek is now studying for a Doctorate in Ecology at the Victoria University of Wellington School of Biological Sciences and is conducting large-scale experiments with DOC and local Iwi near Wanganui.


Supported by the Quinovic Dune Restoration Trust Award, her studies will contribute best-practice guidelines for dune restoration and management in this country.


NZ’s coastal erosion crisis:


Sand dunes are a natural barrier between sea and land on much of this country’s 15,000 kilometre coastline. But erosion with its associated sand losses poses a serious risk to the dunes’ role in protecting coastal surroundings


The Department of Conservation has named coastal sand dunes one of New Zealand’s most at risk ecosystems needing protection and management.


Native sand-binding grasses provide the best protection for the dunes, and there has been a concerted attempt nationwide to replant them in areas where vegetation has been destroyed, damaged or overcome by weeds.


Ms Krejcek observes that substantial areas of sand dunes in New Zealand are dominated by the exotic sand binder marram grass invading and competing with indigenous plants. The result is a loss of native ground cover that might otherwise prevent erosion.


She says that Coast Care groups, particularly at our most exposed coastal sand dunes, can experience poor survival rates of the native sand binding plants spinifex and pingao when attempting to restore marram grass-dominated dunes.


Plantings in dunes also face a harsh environment including high salt exposure, variable moisture gradients and sand movement.


Projects already underway with DOC and Wanganui Iwi


Ms Krejcek is already conducting a large-scale field experiment with the Department of Conservation in the Wanganui region to investigate competition between native and exotic plants as part of dune restoration ecology.


Local iwi (Ngaa Rauru and Ngati Apa) are also contributing to the trial.


Eleven experimental sites have been established along two exposed dune fields with Marram grass cover, near Wanganui (six at Whitiau and five at Tapuarau).


Some 2475 spinifex plants have been planted in three different treatments (bare sand, live marram, dead sprayed marram and one control site (where nothing is done) per treatment. The results are expected to generate direct benefits to some parts of the coastline.


Quinovic and the Dune Restoration Trust are particularly excited about Ms Krejcek’s win as her work will complement the large ‘Back Dune Restoration’ project that the DRT is running for the Ministry of the Environment


International academic background


Ms Krejcek’s studies have involved internships at universities and institutes in China and Greece as well as in Germany and New Zealand.


In 2006 she spent an exchange semester at the University of Otago completing courses in Harvest management, Wilderness and Marine Tourism, and Marine Conservation Biology.


As part of her Master’s Thesis she returned to New Zealand in 2008 and worked on environmental research with the Taranaki Regional Council.


She returned again in 2009 and began Doctorate studies at Victoria University in 2010.


Last year she was a tutor in animal diversity and community ecology at Victoria University.


Publications and reports:

Krejcek, S. (2009):'Riparian management in Taranaki – A success for native biodiversity?' Diploma Thesis, Carl v. Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany


Co-authoring for: Taranaki Regional Council (2009); Restoration of biodiversity. In: Taranaki Regional Council: Where we stand Taranaki State of the Environment Report 2009; Taranaki Regional Council, Stratford/New Zealand.
ends

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