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Climate change sends beaches to water

Photo John Bisset

A joint report from the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ on New Zealand’s marine environment has found climate change to be having “serious effects”.

The report, Our Marine Environment 2019, highlights the four most pressing issues facing the country’s seas and coasts.

“Adding to the effects of climate change, river sediment, waste, urban development, fishing and shipping are harming, sometimes irreversibly, our native marine plants, animals and the habitats they live in,” the report says.

Secretary for the Environment, Vicky Robertson said New Zealand’s oceans acted like a giant sponge against the effects of climate change.

“It’s likely our seas take up more carbon dioxide than our forests, but there is only so much the oceans and the life in them can take — and the limits aren’t yet known,” Ms Robertson said.

“The warmer the water gets, the less able it is to absorb gases like carbon dioxide. The growth of species in the oceans is affected, and coastal communities and habitats are at risk from flooding and sea-level rise.”

Government Statistician, Liz MacPherson said New Zealand had one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones in the world, yet less was known about its coasts and oceans than any other environmental domain. 

“It may be challenging, but it is absolutely critical that we continue to extend our knowledge and understanding of our precious marine ecosystems — our oceans, estuaries, coasts, and harbours — and the life within them,” Ms MacPherson said.

“We’re expanding the breadth of our data with the help of community organisations and our treaty partners. This report includes, for the first time, data drawn from a citizen science project — the Sustainable Coastlines beach litter initiative.” 

The joint 69-page report can be accessed at this PS News link.