Rights: University of Waikato Published 1 March 2018 Download

Listen as Professor Conrad Pilditch describes the hidden marine infrastructure – the ecosystem interactions – that provide many of the goods and services we get from our oceans.


Professor Conrad Pilditch

The coastal environment means many, many different things to different people. No matter what part of New Zealand you are from, you are probably interacting with the coast. The coast is probably the most contested and multiuse space that we have in Aotearoa. A lot of the goods and services that we obtain from the coast – leisure, recreation, food provision, cultural and spiritual values – is all underpinned by hidden infrastructure that you really don’t think about or interact with very much. 

The hidden infrastructure is the interactions that occur between animals and the plants and their environment. These interactions are really, really complex, often nonlinear. They operate over multiple, different temporal (time) and spatial scales. So, when we take for example, the shellfish that exist in our estuaries and harbours. When in high densities, the filtration capacity or the ability to keep the water clear means that that will sustain aquatic vegetation. That aquatic vegetation may be habitat for juvenile fish that ultimately provides food provision in offshore waters. It’s those hidden interactions in the hidden infrastructure that maintains all these goods and services, that as a society and culture we enjoy about our coastal environments.

This hidden infrastructure is under threat and can be impacted by the activities we have in the marine environment. And particularly in the coastal environment, often the activities (that impact the ocean) are occurring on land.

The Science Learning Hub acknowledges the contribution of the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge and Professor Conrad Pilditch.
Footage supplied by the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge.