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Historical Ecosystem Change

Picton and Harbour. 1950's Archers. Shakespeare Bay with Freezing Works.

 Photo: Alexander
Turnbull Library

Beryl Archer

Port Marlborough

Bob Marley once sang “If you know your history, then you will know where you coming from”.

Council has embarked on a project to identify how coastal ecosystems have changed since human habitation of the Marlborough Sounds.

The research includes:

  • Sediment coring to understand how seabed ecosystems have changed.
  • Literature reviews including historic newspaper accounts.
  • Capturing historic aerial photo surveys to identify land use change.
  • An on-line Tell Your Story form for people to share reminisces.
  • Video interviews of elderly residents to create a Marlborough Sounds storybook.

The results so far show that there have been significant changes to habitats and ecosystem processes, which have caused a dramatic loss of abundance of fish, shellfish and crayfish over the last 150 years.

Marlburians see this today in reduced fish numbers, loss and degradation of shellfish beds, and visible sedimentation in coastal waters.

The value of the historical ecosystem change knowledge is starting to become evident in community conversations about restoration and marine protection.

This is because ecological problems are becoming better defined, thus helping the search for shared solutions.

The outcomes of the research will be shared with the community through public talks and YouTube videos. Council is also planning to display the information for the 250 year celebrations in 2020 of Captain Cook’s first visit to the Sounds.

For more information, please contact Dr Steve Urlich, Coastal Scientist or 03 520 7560.


PDF Document.History of benthic change in Queen Charlotte Sound/Totaranui by NIWA (3.1 Mb)

PDF Document.History of benthic change in Pelorus/Te Hoiere by NIWA (4.9 Mb)


History of Benthic Change to Totaranui/Queen Charlotte Sound - presentation by NIWA Marine Scientist Dr Sean Handley. 

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