NIWA science delves into ocean acidification


NIWA scientists are to undertake a major research project to determine how New Zealand’s marine ecosystems are faring under climate change.

Dr Rob Murdoch, NIWA’s general manager research, said ocean acidification – caused by increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – was having detrimental effects on marine life and was particularly concerning in coastal regions where acidity levels are also being affected by land run-off.

The research project, which yesterday received a grant of $4.9m from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s 2015 science investment round, will enable scientists to establish the scale of acidification and how it is affecting New Zealand coastal ecosytems.

“We are delighted to be in a position to use our extensive scientific expertise to better understand what is going on,” Dr Murdoch said.

Monitoring of acidity levels will take place at three locations to determine the impacts on Greenshell mussels, paua and snapper – species important to New Zealand ecologically, economically and culturally.

Dr Murdoch said this 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, availability and habitat will affect their survival. We will also examine the potential for shellfish to adapt to acidification.”

NIWA also received $3m 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 been 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,” Mr Joyce said.

Further information

Watch a video on what ocean acidification means for shellfish

New Zealand Acidification Observing Network 

Paua are susceptible to the effects of ocean acidification. [NIWA]