Climate change impacts on ecosystem services
Research is showing that climate change has and will continue to alter provision, timing, and location of ecosystem functions across landscapes. These changes will impact on the benefits people get from nature, in both positive and negative ways.
For example, climate change can alter primary production (increasing or decreasing biomass production of crops, pastures, forests) and influence future land-use changes. But it can also increase pest invasion, fire and erosion risks, and change water supply. Landcare Research, in partnership with other Crown Research Institutes and universities, is involved in several research initiatives looking at climate change impacts on ecosystems and their services.
First, we are investigating the likely impact of increased storminess on soil erosion and sedimentation in rivers. This work has led to an Envirolink project with Horizons Regional Council to look at the impacts of climate change on its Sustainable Land Use Initiative. This programme is designed to reduce soil erosion and sedimentation in rivers in the Manawatu-Wanganui Region through the implementation of farm plans. These farm plans involve a mixture of soil conservation tree planting, afforestation, and land retirement.
Second, we are developing case studies (Climate Changes Impacts and Implications research programme) to understand likely impacts and implications of future climates. Case studies include alpine, upland, lowland, estuarine and marine areas. In the lowland environment, consensus was reached to choose the lower Kaituna catchment in the Bay of Plenty for its mosaic of land uses (kiwifruit, dairy, forestry, cropping), natural ecosystems (native forests, wetlands), and issues of urban growth, land-use intensification, and the impact of sea-level rise on coastal settlements. Researchers from Landcare Research, NIWA, AgResearch, Plant & Food Research, Scion, Motu, and Victoria University of Wellington are teaming up to model various aspects of this complex system and to give insight into potential futures for this area. For instance, we are looking at climate change and associated land-use change impacts on primary production (maize, pasture, wood), water supply, pest and fire risks, erosion, and ecological integrity of wetlands. We are also engaging with local stakeholders through workshops to understand their issues and how our research outputs could help inform their decisions.