DEVELOPING CLIMATE RESILIENT KELP
IN WHAKARAUPŌ LYTTELTON
In the South Island, kelp forests face different challenges than in the North – they’re being impacted by sedimentation and an ocean that is already warming. In the summer of 2017 and 2018 a marine heatwave caused sea surface temperatures in New Zealand to climb to record levels wiping out much the native kelp around Christchurch and Lyttelton Harbour.
Throughout 2023 a project is underway seeking to restore native rimurimu kelp in Lyttelton Harbour and bring back a flourishing ecosystem.
Māra Moana builds from research seeking to develop climate resilient cultivars of rimurimu (Giant Kelp or Macrocystis pyrifera) to use in restoration. The project led by Matt De Roe is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Otago, hapū of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and made possible by the Centre of Research Excellence – Coastal People Southern Skies.
In a bid to rebuild the kelp forests of Whakaraupō, trialling re-seeding native rimurimu and also seeking to identify and develop climate resilient cultivars for the greatest chance of success.
The wider project is ultimately about restoration with scientists looking to develop toolkits for handover to communities invested in looking after their local areas, and Whakaraupō Lyttelton Harbour is a test bed for this approach.
“We aim to support customary and community-led approaches to marine ecosystem management and restoration. It’s important to be working with local people as they understand their local environment best and have the energy to drive change. Supporting and working alongside tangata tiaki allows them to share their knowledge and guide our research. It also means the outcomes of the research are then left in the hands of those that can continue the hard work.” MATT DE ROE, RESEARCH FELLOW – OTAGO UNIVERSITY
Live Ocean Foundation support for Māra Moana will see Ngāti Wheke divers provided training and boat time for Undaria removal and to trial planting the rimurimu kelp in Whākaraupo Lyttleton harbour.