Left to right: Dr Adam Hartland introduced by JR Rowland, Ngā Ara Whetū Director and Deputy Dean, Faculty of Science

We are about to find out: New Zealand will be first in the world to lead an extensive research study on how CO2 is changing the ecology of our freshwater. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Endeavour Fund has awarded over $10 million over 5 years to Lincoln Agritech, led by Dr Adam Hartland, in collaboration with a national and international team of diverse research experts.

What is known so far; there is a plethora of research on acidity in our oceans caused by CO2 emissions, and yet little awareness on the impacts of increased atmospheric CO2 on freshwater ecosystems. The Waikato River will be the epi centre of the study due to its cultural and economic importance. The Awa for instance, provides drinking water to around one third of our population, power generation, has immense cultural significance for Māori, and affords abundant recreation. Yet, tell-tale clues of the effects of atmospheric CO2 may be already seen in shifts the growth of algae, and potentially kākahi (a keystone species and mahinga kai for Māori), all due to higher acidity. The combined effects could also result in the growth of harmful algal blooms.

Dr Adam Hartland recently gave a talk to Ngā Ara Whetū invited scientists to share the groundwork for the research study. Adam explained the overarching objective of the research, “We are investigating whether rising CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere could determine future outcomes for freshwater. We hope this research will allow us to front-foot these changes”.  

A significant research study whose findings will contribute to the health of our freshwater, whether to drink, swim in, or gather food.  Freshwater is the lifeblood of our land.

Thank you, Dr Adam Hartland, for giving us your time to share this groundbreaking research journey.

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