Ecosystem models

Depth layer mapping of Tasman and Golden Bays. © Vidette McGregor, NIWA

We are developing simulation models for the Tasman and Golden Bays marine ecosystem to test what is likely to happen in different scenarios. 

Project leader: Ian Tuck, NIWA

Duration: May 2016 – December 2019 
Budget: $1,495,000 
Status: Ongoing 

We have put together and validated an ecosystem model using the Atlantis framework. The Atlantis model is a computer representation of the Tasman and Golden Bays area that can be used to mimic, and help understand, dynamics and flow-on effects from changes in the environment or its management. It encompasses everything from sunlight and nutrients through to predators and fisheries. It allows researchers and decision-makers to test different scenarios to understand effects on the whole ecosystem.  

We have engaged with regional council representatives, Māori, marine managers, and a range of stakeholders, to understand their concerns relating to the marine environment in Tasman and Golden Bays. The model has been used to explore the implications of a range of environmental and management scenarios. For example, our results suggest that the collapse of scallop populations in the region is not associated with scallop harvesting, but changes in habitat suitability. 

We have also built a food-web model and are developing a size-based ecosystem model for exploring scenarios. We will investigate ways to compare these modelling approaches and explore which are the most useful to answer specific questions. When our project is complete we will be able to advise which model to use depending on the criteria. 

This work is strongly linked with the Participatory Tools project which is developing web-based tools so people can interface with model outputs to support decision-making. 

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Media statement: Today's marine environment report from MfE and StatsNZ

Julie Hall, Director: "It is deeply concerning that the state of our marine environment has not improved in the last three years. Resilient coasts and oceans are essential to New Zealanders' health and wealth, so urgent action is needed to address the decline. There is a growing need for ecosystem-based management (EBM) to holistically manage risk and sustain Aotearoa's coasts and oceans. This is even more important given the ongoing impacts of climate change."

Job opportunity: Communications advisor

Do you have science communication skills and at least 2 years experience? Do you care about Aotearoa's oceans and how people use/value our seas? Then we've got a job for you.