Measuring ecosystem services and assessing impacts
We are finding new ways to measure and map the ecosystem services provided by marine ecosystems.
Project leader: Drew Lohrer, NIWA
Duration: April 2016 – June 2019
Marine species and habitats provide many ‘ecosystem services’ that are of value to people and communities, such as food, coastal protection, improved water quality and nutrient cycling. We are developing ways to measure two ecosystem services:
- The provision of refuge habitat that supports young finfish and shellfish.
- The removal of pollutants, specifically nutrients, from our coastal waters.
We have predicted and mapped variation in the amount of refuge habitat in the Hauraki Gulf (14,000 km2) and in the Marlborough Sounds (30,000 km2). The work in the Hauraki Gulf has been validated with survey data from 57 sites.
Excessive nutrients are a problem for coastal ecosystems, and it is important to identify areas that can process or remove nutrients efficiently. Denitrification is one such process that removes nitrogen, but it is difficult and expensive to measure. We have found environmental measures that correlate well with denitrification, and these can be used to predict areas where high levels of nutrient removal occur. We have developed maps of the nutrient removal service for two bays near Auckland: Whitford and Wairoa.
Our results will be useful for regional government agencies seeking to identify marine ‘hotspots’ of ecosystem service delivery that require protection. We are also working closely with other Challenge researchers to clarify the links between New Zealanders’ social and cultural values for marine areas and the ecosystem services they provide.
You can read more about the kinds of services that ecosystems provide on NIWA's website.
Bulmer RH, Schwendenmann L, Lohrer AM and Lundquist CJ (2017) Sediment carbon and nutrient fluxes from cleared and intact temperate mangrove ecosystems and adjacent sandflats. Science of The Total Environment 599–600(Supplement C):1874 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.05.139
Douglas EJ, Pilditch CA, Kraan C, Schipper LA, Lohrer AM & Thrush SF (2017) Macrofaunal Functional Diversity Provides Resilience to Nutrient Enrichment in Coastal Sediments. Ecosystems 20(7):1324 DOI: 10.1007/s10021-017-0113-4
Geange S, Townsend M, Clark D, Ellis JI & Lohrer AM (2019) Communicating the value of marine conservation using an ecosystem service matrix approach. Ecosystem Services 35: 150-163 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2018.12.004
Gladstone-Gallagher RV, Needham HR, Lohrer AM, Lundquist C & Pilditch CA (2017). Site-dependent effects of bioturbator-detritus interactions alter soft-sediment ecosystem function. Marine Ecology Progress Series 569:145 DOI: 10.3354/meps12086
Gladstone-Gallagher RV, Sandwell DR, Lohrer AM, Lundquist CJ & Pilditch CA (2017). Quantifying macrodetritus fluxes from a small temperate estuary. Marine and Freshwater Research 68(12):2289 DOI: 10.1071/MF16408
Townsend M, Davies K, Hanley N, Hewitt J, Lundquist C & Lohrer AM (2018). The challenge of implementing the marine ecosystem service concept. Frontiers in Marine Science DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2018.00359
Latest news and updates
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.
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.
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.