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UC freshwater biologist to outline severe damage to NZ’s wet

UC freshwater biologist to outline severe damage to NZ’s wetlands

June 27, 2013

A University of Canterbury (UC) freshwater biologist will outline the severe damage to New Zealand’s wetlands at a national conference on campus at UC next month.

Associate Professor Jon Harding says about 95 percent of New Zealand’s natural wetland ecosystems have been destroyed, while a significant number of our indigenous freshwater fish species are under threat.

He will talk about the damage to New Zealand’s natural environment at the national Biolive conference at UC (July 14 to 17). Biolive is a biennial national conference for primary, secondary and tertiary biology educators run by the Biology Educator’s Association of New Zealand.

Professor Harding says some river systems water abstraction for irrigation purposes now exceeds the total amount of water in the river.

``These issues are of particular concern when we consider the unique flora and fauna habit in our freshwaters.

``Human activities have left their mark on almost all environments on our planet. Human activities have been directly linked to a significant increase in species extinctions, the increasing spread of invasive species, widespread habitat degradation, and ecosystem modification and, arguably, human-induced climate change.

``One environment which has critical importance to life on this planet is our freshwaters. Humans need safe, drinkable water for their survival, while we use freshwater for a range of purposes; including domestic uses, for growing our food and, increasingly, for power generation.

``Despite our dependence on this vital resource we frequently take it for granted and heavily pollute and abuse it. Globally human activities have had substantial impacts on the availability and quality of freshwaters.

``Many of our lowland streams, rivers and lakes are not clean. One of our largest lowland rivers, the Manawatu River, was recently described as one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Lake Ellesmere, or Te Waihora, is the largest lowland lake in New Zealand and it has been described as dead,’’ Professor Harding says.

ENDS

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