Sunday, August 22, 2010

All Blacks Win Tri Nations, Aussies Hang Their Politicians Out to Dry

Weekend round-up

New Zealand's All Blacks won a thrilling cliff hanger of a rugby test in South Africa to take the Tri-Nations crown for 2010, adding it to the Bledisloe Cup won a fortnight ago against the Wallabies.

Meantime, over the ditch in Australia, voters hung their politicians of all persuasions out to dry. Nice one, Aussies! 

All in a weekend's work, as they say.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Marine Biodiversity of Aotearoa New Zealand

Cold Water Coral By-Catch from Bottom Trawling off New Zealand

The Census of Marine Life's results on Marine Biodiversity in New Zealand are published in the Public Library of Science's One Journal of 2 August 2010 here.

The Census recorded some 17,135 living species within New Zealand's 200 nautical-mile boundary of the Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ. This diversity includes 4,315 known undescribed species in scientific collections. Total marine diversity in the EEZ is expected to equal that in the ERMS or European Register of Marine Species region despite  the European region being 5.5 times larger than New Zealand's EEZ, indicating New Zealand's marine diversity is much greater than that in the European region.

The threats to New Zealand's marine biodiversity are several, including fishing, mining, chemical pollution, coastal nutrient and sediment input, habitat loss, aquaculture, invasive species, harmful algal blooms, and climate change.

 Protected areas within New Zealand's EEZ

"Currently, there are more than 30 marine protected areas established in New Zealand waters. All are “no take” areas, administered by the Department of Conservation....They range in size from about 250 ha (within a harbor) to 745,000 ha (7,450 km2) (at the Kermadec Islands). Collectively, they protect 7.6% of New Zealand's territorial sea; however, 99% of this area is in two marine reserves around isolated offshore island groups (Auckland and Kermadec), and the sum of the areas of the remaining reserves in the mainland territorial sea is less than the area of the smallest terrestrial national park. Of New Zealand's total marine environment (EEZ), just 0.3% is protected in marine reserves. Currently the highest level of protection outside the territorial sea is through fisheries closures of trawling on 19 seamounts, initiated in 2001. Additionally, in 2007, the New Zealand government established 17 Benthic Protection Areas in deep water; these protect about 30% of the seabed in the EEZ from deep-sea bottom trawling and dredging activity. There are three marine parks, each having different regulations and generally affording a lower level of protection than marine reserves proper, for example, mainly protecting reef fish."

Much clearly remains to be done to manage the marine environment in a sustainable manner.

For our Australian friends and readers of this blog, you will find a similar Marine Biodiversity of Australia article compiled as part of the Census of Marine Life here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Census of Marine Life

Orange roughy, at risk in New Zealand waters

Over the past ten years, more than 2,700 scientists from 82 nations involving 538 field expeditions backed by US$650 million of funding have been conducting a census of global marine life. Now the results are becoming available in final form.

In October the Census of Marine Life will publish more detailed, final results but advance estimates have recently become available. The research has so far counted over 230,000 individual species.

The Guardian Weekly sums up the Census results nicely (full article here):  

"The results show that around a fifth of the world's marine species are crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters, krill and barnacles. Add in molluscs (squid and octopus) and fish (including sharks) and that accounts for up to half of the number of species in the world's seas. The charismatic species often used in conservation campaigning – whales, sea lions, turtles and sea birds – account for less than 2% of the species in the world's oceans. 

The surveys have also highlighted major areas of concern for conservationists. "In every region, they've got the same story of a major collapse of what were usually very abundant fish stocks or crabs or crustaceans that are now only 5-10% of what they used to be," said Mark Costello of the Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland in New Zealand. "These are largely due to over-harvesting and poor management of those fisheries. That's probably the biggest and most consistent threat to marine biodiversity around the world."

The main threats to date include overfishing, degraded habitats, pollution and the arrival of invasive species. But more problems are around the corner: rising water temperatures and acidification thanks to climate change and the growth in areas of the ocean that are low in oxygen and, therefore, unable to support life."

The Guardian UK also has some very useful graphics providing more detailed information on various ecosystems and regions of the world here and a brief item on just how the census takers count marine species and how they estimate species yet to be discovered here.

 The advance results of the Census were published in the 2 August issue of the Public Library of Sciences ONE Journal available here.

Both New Zealand and Australia have huge marine resources surrounding their coastlines and have equally huge tasks ahead of them in managing those resources in more sustainable ways. Better management requires better knowledge and the Census of Marine Life is an important improvement in that knowledge base.

 Hoki, at risk in New Zealand waters

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Full Steam Ahead - The NZR Gang At Oamaru circa 1905

Q Class locomotive and Railway Station employees, Oamaru, circa 1905, Real phhoto postcard

A Q Class locomotive of New Zealand Railways at Oamaru, South Island  circa 1905. RPPC was sent as a Christmas greeting to family members from the gang at the Oamaru station. Sender remarks that the loco's lamp is one of the latest electric lamps from a workshop in Chicago.

Many decades later I rode the freight trains at Oamaru with my uncle who was a guard (conductor - yeah, I know no passengers so no tickets to punch; a guard "guarded" the train, not for "security" but "(rail)road" safety). By those times, diesels had taken over. Good times - toasting sandwiches on the pot belly stove in the guard's van. In the steam era, got to ride up front in the cab, shoveling some coal, blowing the whistle, hand on the throttle or whatever they call it, head out the window, cinders in the eye...

Sadly, kids can't do that anymore thanks to occupational safety and health. Go play a video game, kid. Wouldn't trade those memories for anything (sniff). God bless you Uncle Norman, up there in the big roundhouse in the sky.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack - For Now...

Maori haka, circa 1910, real photo postcard

I'm baaaaaaaaaaack, for now. And the tangata whenua are up in arms about it. In fact, they are thrilled to bits. 

But as manuhiri I'll have to watch my tikanga Maori otherwise it's a slap backside the head with a tewhatewha or double barrels of buckshot in the kumu

Wait a moment, this spectrum is not subject to a Treaty claim - and I'm tangata whenua on this blog.  Welcome again, anyway.

Been listless over the hot & humid northern summer. Let's see if I can get back to blogging more dependably.