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NIWA launches ‘world first’ digital atlas to map Enzed's ocean real estate

New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a valuable asset, both economically and environmentally. Now NIWA is hoping its new digital regional climate change atlas, which maps out New Zealand’s resources within the EEZ, will highlight climate change issues and show how plants and animals in the area may respond to future changes facing New Zealand's waters. 

Calling it a “world first”, NIWA said the atlas will give users the ability to customise and compile the necessary information to focus on particular questions. Described as a “toolkit by Dr Philip Boyd, from NIWA’s Centre of Chemical and Physical Oceanography, the atlas will also prove beneficial in helping frame discussion and inform policy makers about what is needed to reduce uncertainties on the future of the marine life in the EEZ. Boyd said the atlas will also prove useful for the education sector, particularly at the secondary and tertiary level. 

"It will offer New Zealand a repository of three interlinked strands of information, by bringing together who lives where, how vulnerable they are to environmental change, and how our EEZ environment is projected to change,” said Boyd. 

“We want them  (users) to interact with us and tell us what information they want in the Atlas.” 

Users will eventually be able to control their view of multiple layers of information overlaid on a digital map. They will be able to view the information based on different time periods so that they can come to grips with how our environment will change. 

“[In the future] there may be areas where some marine life is becoming increasingly vulnerable," said Boyd. 

"There could be direct or indirect effects on fisheries. The productivity of microscopic plants - phytoplankton, which form productive blooms of over thousands of square kilometres, may well be reduced by waters warming and the rise in CO2.” 

According to NIWA, the seas surrounding New Zealand could warm by up to 4oC in the coming century. These changes, and the response of plants and animals to them, will mean that there are some areas where the effects will be greater than others. Take into consideration that the harvesting of marine resources supports over 10,000 jobs and is estimated to be over NZ$4 billion per annum, and you can start to see the value in having such mapping abilities. 

Boyd co-authored the atlas with Dr Cliff Law. Prior to the living document going online,  a 20-page primer document will be launched at an event on Wednesday night with electronic or physical copies are available by emailing: c.law@niwa.co.nz.