Tauranga Harbour ecology survey underway

Press Release – Massey University

Researchers have joined up with local iwi to undertake an ecological survey of Tauranga Harbour this week, in a bid to better understand and identify areas of concern with its delicate ecosystem. The survey was recommended as part of a report prepared by …Tauranga Harbour ecology survey underway

Researchers have joined up with local iwi to undertake an ecological survey of Tauranga Harbour this week, in a bid to better understand and identify areas of concern with its delicate ecosystem.

The survey was recommended as part of a report prepared by the Manaaki Taha Moana (MTM) research consortium whose members include Massey University, Waka Taiao and Te Manaaki Awanui of Tauranga Moana, and I.T. company, WakaDigital.

While the report identified overall stable nutrient levels in the harbour and water quality suitable for recreation, it noted concerns with a 34 per cent decline in sea grass since the middle of last century and the expansion of mangroves. It also stated that some species of fish and shellfish have declined while nutrient levels in some rivers entering the harbour are unusually elevated.

Marine ecologist Dr Joanne Ellis from the Cawthron Institute in Nelson is leading the survey, with involvement of the MTM team, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, University of Waikato, and local volunteers to help collect samples from up to 75 locations throughout the harbour, including intertidal sandflats, shellfish beds and seagrass areas. The samples will then be sorted and processed for later detailed analysis.

Members of MTM, which has received funding for the project from the Ministry of Science and Innovation till 2015, will then use the broad scale survey data to develop models that can be used, for example, to monitor improvements or decline in the health of the Harbour over time or in resource management applications such as predicting future species distribution under varying scenarios.

Professor Murray Patterson, from Massey’s School of People, Environment and Planning, who leads MTM, says the research consortium is also developing a coastal cultural health index with Maori. This will enable the assessment of the harbour’s health through criteria such as measuring the abundance of shellfish in the water catchment. An important aspect of Manaaki Taha Moana is that it incorporates local Maori knowledge as well as ‘scientific data’.

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