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Ed Sheeran

Kaupapa Māori helps measure river health

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The Cawthron Institute says use of kaupapa Māori frameworks for assessing river condition may be a way to link ecological and human values.

The institute has released a new report What is a healthy river? aimed at ensuring the right things are measured when assessing the health of rivers, lakes and streams.

Co-author and freshwater ecologist Joanne Clapcott says the wellbeing of New Zealand’s freshwater ecosystems is under threat from agricultural intensification, urban development, water abstraction, invasive species, and climate change.

There is also confusion around what the different indicators mean, how they link with community values, and how to determine what a ‘healthy waterway’ is.

She says a healthy river will support the range of species that are expected to live there and the ecological functions they perform, as well as provide for society’s expectations, whether these be for swimming, fishing, or aesthetics.

Dr Clapcott says while the traditional focus has been measuring water quality, a complete picture requires indicators of biological community composition, ecosystem processes, flow, and physical habitat.

To ensure information isn’t lost in the mix, results must be intuitive and easy to understand, so ‘report cards’ are becoming an increasingly popular approach to presenting information on river health.


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