Rights: University of Waikato. All Rights Reserved. Published 5 October 2012 Download

Dr Ashley Rowden, of NIWA, believes we have an obligation to document our biodiversity and to protect and conserve it. Cold-seep communities are special habitats consisting of unique organisms, some of which are endemic to New Zealand. Understanding the biogeography of seep communities is needed so that effective management strategies can be devised to protect such sites. 


On a local level, we in New Zealand have an obligation to document our biodiversity to find out what biodiversity we have as a step towards actually trying to protect and conserve that biodiversity. And so we need to go to places like cold-seep communities, which are relatively special and restricted habitats, to find out what organisms live there. So it’s important whenever we know of such habitats – whether they be hydrothermal vents or whale falls or wood falls – is to be able to document what organisms live there. And of course those sorts of obligations also extend internationally, and it’s important for instance to potentially identify if chemosynthetic communities in New Zealand are different from those for instance that are found elsewhere in the Pacific. Because if we are going to have for instance a network of protected areas throughout the ocean, then we need to be able to represent the different types of communities from one place to the next, so we need to understand the biogeography of seep communities before we can devise effective management strategies.

The first thing is to complete what we started in 2006 – that’s the important thing, to publish the results so that other people can learn about what we saw and also use that information to good effect. We’ve also got to keep on going with the work, and so next year, we’ll take part in another research voyage which will take us back to some of the sites that we’ve already visited to find out more information, to delve past if you like the species identity, but to begin to understand sort of what processes have taken place at these chemosynthetic sites.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)
Dr Kareen Schnabel
Dr Dave Bowden