Ecosystem connectivity: tracking biochemical fluxes to inform ecosystem based management

The researchers on a survey dive

We are tracing the fate of water and sediments from land through coastal food webs, evaluating connections between coastal and deep sea habitats, and identifying the effects of key coastal developments (for example, aquaculture) on food web connectivity. 

Project leader: Steve Wing, University of Otago

Forensic food webs

For EBM to work, we need to understand the critical connections within ecosystems, such as how bivalves (eg mussels) and fish feed and provide food for other parts of their coastal community. Changes in ecosystem connections can shape ecological function and the provision of goods and services on which we all rely.

We are tracing the fate of water and sediments from land through coastal food webs, evaluating connections between coastal and deep sea habitats, and identifying the effects of key coastal developments on food web connectivity. Changes in nutrients, sedimentation, disturbance or large-scale changes in ocean circulation and physical conditions, such as temperature and oxygen, can significantly affect these connections.

We are using advanced forensic chemistry to determine ecosystem connectivity by tracing organic matter, nutrients, metals and contaminants through marine food webs and investigating how they are processed and channelled.

We are also identifying how marine activities such as fishing, aquaculture or coastal development alter connections within food webs, focusing particularly on shellfish and finfish that are at the heart of coastal food webs.

Latest news and updates

Consultation opens re 2019–2024 strategy

Improving marine management is critical to New Zealand's future health and wealth, but research in isolation is not enough. Excellent engagement with, and participation from, all users and sectors of society is essential.

We therefore invite comment on our draft strategy for Phase II (2019–2024). This strategy has been co-developed with Māori and stakeholders.

Sun, sea, sand – and marine science

During Seaweek, more than 4,600 school pupils joined 6 Sustainable Seas researchers for 3 days of marine science fieldwork in Tasman Bay, as part of the LEARNZ virtual field trip Sustainable seas – essential for New Zealand’s health and wealth.

Tipping Points on Radio NZ

Tune in to tonight’s episode of Our Changing World (after the 9pm news) for an excellent in-depth piece that gets into the detail of what the Tipping Points project is investigating, and why.