Novel risk assessment tools for ecosystem-based management

Guiding a ship into the port of Lyttelton. © Graeme Inglis, NIWA

We are reviewing new methods to help assess and manage risks to Aotearoa New Zealand’s marine ecosystems.

Project leader: Graeme Inglis, NIWA

Duration: Dec 2017 – June 2019 
Budget: $270,000 
Status: Ongoing 

To manage marine ecosystems sustainably, decision-makers need to be able to predict how they will respond to changes or threats. Risk assessment can help by identifying possible changes caused by an activity, the environmental and social consequences, and how likely each outcome is to occur.  

We are reviewing new methods for risk assessment to see if they can be applied to ecosystem-based management of marine areas. We are focussing primarily on methods that deal with uncertainty. We are looking for the best methods to assess and manage risks to the marine environment from changing patterns of human use. This is challenging as multiple stressors from human activities can interact, leading to significant consequences when the ecosystem can no longer cope, and a tipping point is reached.   

We are also exploring how mātauranga Māori can be incorporated into risk assessments and management.  

Our research aims to enable New Zealanders to participate in developing plausible threat scenarios and to evaluate the risks associated with them. We want decisions about future risks to be informed by the best available information and methods.  

Our research will help to optimise methods for choosing among a set of alternative policy strategies, evaluate combinations of stressors, and determine management strategies that are most ‘robust’ to threats. The findings of our research will be useful for decision-makers in the marine environment, including central and regional government, and Māori.

Latest news and updates

Interview: Stew Robertson, Abel Tasman Ecotours/Tasman Bay Guardians

Stew Robertson has been a participant in research workshops for projects focused in Tasman-Golden Bay. He is involved with the Nelson Biodiversity Forum and founded the Tasman Bay Guardians in 2017.

Understanding food webs to help manage coastal resources

A study of coastal food webs has revealed how ecosystem-based approaches to marine management could improve management of fish stocks and biodiversity in our changing coastal ocean.

Sharing our latest sedimentation science

In a workshop hosted in Wellington in early May, NIWA and Victoria University of Wellington researchers shared their latest findings on the effects of sediment on both shallow water and deep-sea species with iwi and stakeholders.