Summary of the 7th New Zealand Ocean Acidification workshop “The acid test: research priorities in a changing ocean”

The 7th New Zealand Ocean Acidification (OA) workshop took place on February 11-12th 2014 in Wellington. Three international keynote speakers provided a global context for OA research in New Zealand. Professor Philip Munday (James Cook University, Australia), gave a number of examples of how fish, although superficially unaffected in terms of size and weight, are influenced by OA via their sensory systems with significant impact on their behaviour. The reef fish they have studied to date show more “risky” behaviour, making them more vulnerable to predation. Dr Andreas Andersson (Scripps, USA) discussed monitoring of the highly variable carbonate system on coral reefs in Bermuda and Hawaii, and how climate variability in the open ocean influences pH on coral reefs. Dr Libby Jewett, the head of the NOAA Ocean Acidification program in the USA discussed ongoing interaction of US scientists and the shellfish industry on the northwest US coast, and the development of the OA Global Observing Network (OA-GON), which aims to monitor the changing carbonate and environmental parameters in the oceans, across a range of ecosystems.

The New Zealand (and Australian) science presentations covered a broad range of OA topics. There were presentations on carbonate concentrations in the Southern Ocean and around Antarctica and seasonal changes in the Hauraki Gulf. There were also presentations on the potential impacts on biological organisms, including assemblages and enzyme functions of bacteria and different life stages of invertebrates and shellfish. Research is being carried out in a wide range of environments in the southwest Pacific including tropical coral reefs, volcanic seeps and Antarctic coastal ecosystems.

Key and novel themes that emerged included; some new in-situ carbonate sensors that are being developed to monitor natural variability; the requirement for well constrained experimental conditions; attempts to mimic diurnal or seasonal pH variation measured in the natural environments; biological as well as experimental replication in laboratory manipulation studies; the increasing awareness of the interaction of multiple stressors; and the need to consider longer term adaptation, particularly relating to trans-generational effects.

A major focus of the workshop was stakeholder input and interaction, with stakeholder presentations by a representative from Aquaculture NZ, a Waikato Regional Council coastal scientist, and a presentation of the draft NZ Oceans Research Strategy. In addition a summary was given of the joint NZ-USA workshop “Future-proofing NZ shellfish aquaculture: monitoring and adaptation to ocean acidification” which took place in Nelson in November 2013.

The workshop concluded with a short discussion session developing plans for a NZ OA monitoring network and how this will link with the OA-GON. While the pH and carbonate changes in the open ocean have been monitored at the Munida Transect, off Dunedin for over 10 years, little is known about the carbonate chemistry of the coastal regions and there is a growing interest from the regional councils and the shellfish aquaculture community in monitoring specific regions and key sites around New Zealand’s coasts.

Over the last seven years the NZ OA workshop has continued to expand, with over 60 participants this year. There has been a growing interest from government and stakeholders. This reflects the increasing awareness of OA, with potential OA issues included in the NZ Oceans Research Strategy and the new 10 year coastal management plans being put together by the regional councils.

The workshop was organised and funded by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), with contributions from the University of Otago, the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and Victoria University, Wellington, Ecology Laboratory.

For more highlights and comments from the meeting see the Twitter feed #NZOAW14 by Victoria Metcalf. Or a compilation of all the tweets at https://storify.com/VicMetcalf_NZ/nzoa-workshop-2014.

Helen Bostock, Cliff Law & Vonda Cummings, NIWA, Wellington, New Zealand.


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