Research begins in New Zealand into ocean acidification
Scientists from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research(NIWA) are carrying out a major research project to determine how New Zealand’s marine ecosystems are faring under climate change.
Ocean acidification – caused by increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – was having detrimental effects on marine life, said Dr Rob Murdoch, NIWA’s general manager of research. He is particularly concerned about its effect in coastal regions, where acidity levels are also being affected by land run-off.
The research received funding of $4.9 million from the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s 2015 science investment round yesterday. It will enable the scientists to establish the scale of acidification and how it is affecting New Zealand’s coastal ecosystems.
“We are delighted to be in a position to use our extensive scientific expertise to better understand what is going on,” Dr Murdoch said. Acidity levels will be monitored at three locations to determine the impacts on Greenshell mussels, paua and snapper – three species which are particularly important to New Zealand ecologically, economically and culturally.
Dr Murdoch said the research would enable scientists to forecast the future prospects for aquaculture and recreational fisheries as well as consider ways of managing acidification where possible. “We will determine the sensitivity of their different life stages, and whether changes in food quality, food availability and habitat will affect their survival. We will also examine the potential for shellfish to adapt to acidification.
NIWA also received $3 million to research biosecurity threats from non-indigenous species in New Zealand waters. A total of $96.5 million over the next four years across 48 new science research programmes, was allocated this week, with more than half being awarded to research in the environmental and biological fields.
Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announced the funding grants and said research-led science was a key driver of economic growth. “The Government’s science investment aims to produce excellent science that has the greatest capacity to benefit New Zealand,” said Joyce.