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ARTICLE

Ocean salinity

There are many chemicals in seawater that make it salty. Most of them get there from rivers carrying chemicals dissolved out of rock and soil. The main one is sodium chloride, often just called ...

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The ocean and the carbon cycle

The ocean plays an important role in the global carbon cycle. Carbon moves in and out of the ocean daily, but it is also stored there for thousands of years. The carbon cycle Carbon is a chemical ...

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Seismic waves

When an earthquake occurs, the shockwaves of released energy that shake the Earth and temporarily turn soft deposits, such as clay, into jelly (liquefaction) are called seismic waves, from the ...

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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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Poisonous animals in New Zealand

New Zealand has a very small number of poisonous animals. These animals are also called ‘venomous’ as their toxins (venoms) need to be injected by a bite (for example, spiders) or sting (for ...

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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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Poisons and toxins

Poisons are substances that cause harm to organisms when sufficient quantities are absorbed, inhaled or ingested. A toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms ...

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Toxins and food webs

All living things depend on one another to live. Animals eat plants and/or animals to survive. Food webs describe the feeding connections between organisms in an ecosystem. The three main groups ...

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Earth system

Trying to understand how this planet we call home works can seem confusing – there are so many things going on at once! Scientists break down the way the Earth system works to a number of ...

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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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Measuring toxicity

Toxicity can be measured by the effect the substance has on an organism, a tissue or a cell. We know that individuals will respond differently to the same dose of a substance because of a number ...

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Under the Earth’s surface

The Earth is an enormous place. There is so much that we don’t yet know about what happens on the surface of the Earth, so how could we possibly know about what happens deep down below the ...

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Water and weather

The water cycle is driven by energy from the sun. Liquid water is evaporated and changed into a gas. In this process, energy is absorbed (endothermic). The gaseous vapour rises and circulates in ...

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Plate tectonics

We can blame plate tectonics for many catastrophes over time – earthquakes, volcanoes, geothermal activity, tsunamis and landslides – while people living on mountain ranges or small islands can ...

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Liquefaction

Liquefaction is a process that temporarily turns firm ground into a liquid. During the Canterbury earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011, liquefaction caused silt and fine sand to boil ...

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The Alpine Fault

In the South Island of New Zealand, the boundary between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates can be seen on land. This is unlike the North Island boundary, where a subduction zone is under ...

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Earthquakes and volcanoes

We live in a very exciting country. A day’s drive in a car can take us from snowy mountains, past geysers and hot mud pools to white, sandy Pacific beaches. Have you ever wondered why New Zealand ...

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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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Ocean motion

The ocean has a complex circulation system, moving water, heat, salt and nutrients around the world. Surface currents in the top 400m are driven mainly by wind. Deeper currents are driven by ...

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