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ARTICLE

Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the number and variety of organisms found within a specified geographic region. New Zealand’s native biodiversity is unique because of our long isolation as small islands in a ...

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ARTICLE

The phosphorus cycle

Phosphorus is a chemical element found on Earth in numerous compound forms, such as the phosphate ion (PO43-), located in water, soil and sediments. The quantities of phosphorus in soil are ...

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ARTICLE

The nitrogen cycle

Nitrogen is the most abundant element in our planet’s atmosphere. Approximately 78% of the atmosphere is made up of nitrogen gas (N2). Nitrogen is a crucially important component for all life. It ...

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ARTICLE

Classification system

In the 18th century, Carl Linnaeus published a system for classifying living things, which has been developed into the modern classification system. People have always given names to things that ...

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ARTICLE

Cleaning up the oil spill

On 5 October 2011, the cargo vessel Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef. The ship was carrying 1700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and about 200 tonnes of diesel in its tanks. Over 360 tonnes of ...

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ARTICLE

Scientific modelling

In science, a model is a representation of an idea, an object or even a process or a system that is used to describe and explain phenomena that cannot be experienced directly. Models are central ...

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ARTICLE

Measuring biodegradability

In nature, different materials biodegrade at different rates. If you throw your apple core into the bushes along with a steel toy car, your apple core will have disappeared in a few months and ...

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ARTICLE

Human impact on rivers

Human beings have an impact on river ecosystems. The relationship living organisms have with each other and with their environment is extremely complex. Impacts on a species or a non-living ...

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ARTICLE

River ecosystems

The ecology of the river refers to the relationships that living organisms have with each other and with their environment – the ecosystem. An ecosystem is the sum of interactions between plants ...

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ARTICLE

Bioindicators

A bioindicator is a living organism that gives us an idea of the health of an ecosystem. Some organisms are very sensitive to pollution in their environment, so if pollutants are present, the ...

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ARTICLE

What is a fern?

There are ferns in most New Zealanders’ backyards and local environments. Ferns are green flowerless plants with divided leaves that tend to grow in damp, shady areas. The developing leaves of ...

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ARTICLE

Ecosystems

What is an ecosystem? An ecosystem is made up of animals, plants and bacteria as well as the physical and chemical environment they live in. The living parts of an ecosystem are called biotic ...

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ARTICLE

Adapting to marine habitats

Being able to adapt is a matter of life or death. In a perfect world, organisms would not need to adapt. However, changes to the environment and food web mean that organisms need to move, if they ...

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ARTICLE

Soil formation

New Zealand has a wide variety of landscapes. A day’s sightseeing journey might include volcanic plateaus, rolling hills, river basins and coastal lands. It is easy to notice how the scenery ...

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ARTICLE

The ocean and Earth’s systems and cycles

The ocean plays an important part in several Earth systems and cycles. This is hardly surprising, as it covers two-thirds of the planet’s surface. It is difficult to study any of these systems ...

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ARTICLE

What is in soil?

What’s in soil? When you pick up a handful of soil, what do you see? All soil is made up of inorganic mineral particles, organic matter (including living things), air and water. Inorganic mineral ...

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ACTIVITY

Build a marine food web

In this activity, students build their own food web using images of organisms from the marine ecosystem. This activity can be done indoors on paper or outdoors on a tarmac surface using chalk. By ...

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New Zealand’s unique ecology

New Zealand has a rich and unique range of plants, animals and fungi. The level of distinctive biodiversity is as high as such world-renowned ecosystems as the Galapagos Islands. So how have our ...

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Human impact on estuaries

People like to live near estuaries. In pre-European times, estuaries were favourite places for Māori to gather – particularly to harvest and enjoy kaimoana. Today, there are major settlements ...

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