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Freshwater species ecology and management

The abundance and diversity of life in our rivers, lakes and estuaries is the ultimate indicator of the health and wellbeing of our aquatic ecosystems. NIWA is helping to ensure that New Zealand’s unique and iconic freshwater species are healthy, abundant and thriving.

Many of our freshwater species are unique to New Zealand, but a substantial proportion of these species are under threat. Habitat degradation and loss, water quality degradation, altered flow regimes, barriers to movement, overfishing, and invasive exotic species can reduce populations and even eradicate species. Improved management strategies are vital for halting and reversing these declines. 

The effective management and conservation of freshwater species depends on understanding what they need to survive and flourish. What are the crucial factors that determine reproduction, growth and survival in these species? How do our actions impact population processes? The primary aims of the Freshwater Species and Ecology Management Programme are to create the knowledge base and tools needed to ensure healthy, viable populations of native freshwater species.

Programme Leader: Dr Paul Franklin.


  • Generate new knowledge and improved understanding of life history traits and habitat requirements of native species.
  • Improve techniques for detecting and monitoring changes in native aquatic flora and fauna and their habitats.
  • Develop and test new and improved management interventions that halt and reverse declines in freshwater species.
  • Inform strategies for increasing protection and recovery of threatened and at-risk freshwater species.

Current research projects

Key science collaborators

  • Denmark Technical University
  • Department of Conservation
  • Kitson Consulting
  • University of Auckland
  • University of Canterbury
  • University of Otago
  • University of Waikato

Recent publications

See a list of recent publications.


Principal Scientist - Freshwater Fish
Freshwater Fish Ecologist
Freshwater Ecologist
Freshwater Fish Ecologist
Freshwater Biologist
Glass eels (credit: Rebekah Parsons-King).