Niwa scientists map an online atlas for climate change

Two of  NIWA’s principal  scientists have launched a “primer” for their proposal to create a New Zealand Climate Change Atlas to help scientists and policymakers probe the major ramifications of a changing climate for both coastal and offshore waters around New Zealand.

A primer for an Ocean Climate Change Atlas for New Zealand Waters

Researchers Philip Boyd, an  adjunct professor of ocean biogeochemistry at Otago University and biogeochemist Cliff Law, an honorary research associate of Victoria University, initially floated the concept in the science journal Oceanography, with Dr Scott Doney, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA.

Their 20-page primer gives examples of how the proposed atlas could show ways in which the environmental properties of the nation’s seas will be altered, by varying degrees, in the near future, and the potential knock-on effects on marine organisms — including commercial fish stocks.

They also outlined to Wellington’s Oceans Forum  how such information could be brought together within an electronic atlas to shed light on a wide range of issues. Such an Atlas of Ocean Climate Change could be a  living document with a  growing repository of data, from environmental to socio-economic, that would be invaluable in assessing what would happen to the seas in the near future, and help New Zealanders adapt to changes across the EEZ.

Dr Boyd emphasised that though broad support would be needed to create the atlas, it was not just a matter of money: ideas and knowledge were also needed. “Five years, or 10 years down the track , something that starts off with fairly humble beginnings as a 20-page glossy could go some way to really having some useful information … as things change across the EEZ,” he said.