Research updates and news

Read the latest research updates and news from the George Mason Centre for the Natural Environment.

Research updates

Hilltop to Oceans: processes of change and mitigating impacts

Dr Luitgard Schwendenmann, School of Environment, sampling leaf litter and water in the Waitakere Ranges
Dr Luitgard Schwendenmann sampling leaf litter and water in the Waitakere Ranges

Primary investigators: Dr Luitgard Schwendenmann, School of Environment & Emily Douglas, Caitlin Blain, Jenny Hillman

Land use intensification, particularly agricultural, is significantly increasing sediment, nutrient, and organic matter loads to freshwater and coastal ecosystems.

Recent research suggests there may be a tipping point where muddiness exceeds a critical level, significantly affecting denitrification (the microbial conversion of bioavailable nitrogen into inert N2 gas) in estuaries.

Dr Luitgard Schwendenmann says sediment and nutrient input may lead to the loss of marine vegetation, such as seagrasses and kelp forests.

“This decreases the capacity of our coastal ecosystems to act as carbon reservoirs and significantly impacts kai moana, particularly shellfish beds,” she says.

“Our project will look at the cascading effects of land use change on carbon and nutrient cycling in freshwater and coastal ecosystems around the Hauraki Gulf, the role of natural ecosystems in mitigating negative effects and the potential for enhancement through restoration of our estuarine and coastal ecosystems.”

The goal is to provide practical new research and techniques that communities can use to increase the successful restoration of seagrasses, kelp forests and, ultimately, shellfish beds.


Previous research updates

2017 Research projects

2017 marks the inaugural funding round for the George Mason Centre for the Natural Environment.  The following projects have been funded:

  1. Plastic pollution and solutions
    Primary investigators: Kevin Simon, Gavin Lear
  2. Hilltop to Oceans: processes of change and mitigating impacts
    Primary investigators: Emily Douglas & Luitgard Schwendenmann, Caitlin Blain, Jenny Hillman
  3. Building public understandings of ecosystems
    Primary investigator: Maria Armoudian

Funding was also awarded to the following three seed projects:

  1. Advanced sensor technology for tracking woody debris
    Primary investigator: Heide Friedrich
  2. Developing metagenomics for pathogen surveillance in a threatened endemic bird
    Primary investigator: Alexander Knight
  3. Tackling global warming: methane emission from ruminant animals
    Primary investigator: Ivanhoe Leung


Inaugural funding for environmental research | 26 October 2017

Three University of Auckland-based environmental research projects have been awarded funding of more than $1 million from the new George Mason Centre for the Natural Environment. Read more and see details about the funded projects below.

Partnership with Foundation North | 5 September

An important partnership between The University of Auckland’s George Mason Centre for the Natural Environment and Foundation North was sealed in July. Read more.