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UC Researchers Meeting Challenges of the Marine Environment

UC Researchers Meeting Challenges of the NZ Marine Environment

May 22, 2013

University of Canterbury (UC) marine expert Professor David Schiel is investigating human-induced and natural long-term changes in ocean forces and sea temperatures around the country.

Professor Schiel is researching how the changes affect coastal ecosystems in New Zealand waters.

``Together, these underpin development of new management strategies for a sustainable marine future.  The oceans are pretty much telling us there are no more free lunches in the marine environment.

``As New Zealand’s population increases, more of us live along the coastline, more fish are caught, more nutrients are pumped into the ocean from rivers draining cities and farmland, and yet our expectations for a pristine environment are also increasing.

``New Zealand holds diverse cultural, economic and social values for the marine environment, so how do we sustain these and manage ocean resources for future generations?

``Our UC marine scientists are key researchers in a wide range of programmes to meet the challenges. In the scientific arsenal are ecology, oceanography, molecular genetics and physiology.

``We are looking at the future of our ocean and New Zealand waters along with NIWA and other universities. We are looking at a decision-making framework on the trade-offs of marine uses through a wide range of perspectives including iwi and stakeholders such as fishers, the tourism industry and the public.

Professor Schiel is researching coastal climate topology which examines long-term ocean data and links changes to ecological changes in marine communities.

The information is used to develop future scenarios involving multiple uses and climate change. Other UC researchers use genetic science to discover the relatedness of populations and how these are connected over long periods of time, especially as their habitats are degraded.

UC and NIWA are collaborating on research looking at the long-term changes in the ecology, hydrodynamics and health of the Avon-Heathcote estuary in Christchurch.

UC researchers have been responsible for restoring whitebait spawning habitats and developing techniques to enhance whitebait spawning around the South Island.

``We have also played a key role in the scientific studies of the aftermath of the Rena oil spill, another type of disaster that stresses the marine environment all too often.

``In a long-term programme with NIWA, UC researchers have been instrumental in working out resilience of coastal habitats to cumulative effects of multiple impacts. The Government’s National Science Challenges lie ahead and UC is well placed to play a key role in the sustainable use and management of our marine resources,’’ Professor Schiel says.

ENDS

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