Introduction

Kapiti Marine Reserve connects Kapiti Island Nature Reserve with the Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve, and makes this a unique place to research the marine environment.

Two major sea currents converge at Kapiti, the cold southern current and the warm d’Urville current. This results in a fascinating overlap of species that are typically only found further south or further north.

Kapiti Marine Reserve met the criteria to be a sentinel site, with good collaborative relationships in place, interest from local stakeholders and tangata whenua, and existing knowledge and monitoring of the site occurring.

Programme partners

DOC and Air New Zealand partnership logo.

This programme is enabled by the partnership with Air New Zealand. DOC and Air New Zealand share a vision for New Zealand as a place where our natural habitat is thriving, and that all New Zealanders benefit from a healthy environment.

We are working with the following groups and organisations at Kapiti Marine Reserve:

  • Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ngā Hapū ō Ōtaki, Ngāti Toa Rangitira
  • Kapiti Eco Experience, Kapiti Island Nature Tours
  • Kapiti Coast District Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council
  • Massey University and Victoria University of Wellington
  • NIWA
  • Guardians of Kapiti Marine Reserve, Waikanae Estuary Care Group
  • Fisheries New Zealand.

Projects

Fish tagging – understanding interactions between species

Using a computer model, we plan to show how changes in fishing or predation can change the number and size of fish in and around Kapiti Marine Reserve. Information about population sizes, predator and prey size, reproduction and distribution is required for the model.

Tagging and recapturing fish in the Kapiti area will provide more information about the distribution of species and improve the accuracy of the model.

Research questions:

  • What is the impact of no fishing on the number of size and fish inside the marine reserve?
  • What will happen to the size and number of different fish species as the population of fur seals continues to grow?

Current work

The Tindale Marine Research Charitable Trust leads a nationwide inshore tagging programme with recreational fishers. They have developed tools and methods that make it simple and easy to tag and report the catch of tagged fish. The Kapiti tagging work is being carried out in partnership with the trust, using their tags and fish tag recovery reporting form and database.

We tagged 100 fish on two separate day trips to Kapiti in autumn 2019. We are encouraging fishers to report any of the tagged fish they catch and to learn how to tag fish themselves (see below). You can also contact the trust directly if you’re interested in tagging fish in your area.

Help us with the project

If you catch a tagged fish:

It’s your choice to keep the fish or let it go. The trust will notify you if a fish you tagged is re-caught. All tagging data is recorded by the trust and made available to DOC.

Collaborators

Fisheries New Zealand, local fishers, NIWA, Tindale Marine Research Charitable Trust, Victoria University of Wellington.

Seabird surveys

To find out if the number and health of seabirds at Kapiti Marine Reserve is changing.

Research questions:

  • Are seabird populations increasing at Kapiti?
  • What is the historical abundance of seabirds?
  • Is the protection in place effective at protecting seabirds?
  • What are the threats to seabirds at Kapiti?

Seabird numbers have decreased at many places in New Zealand, including Kapiti. With the marine protection in place here (nature reserve, marine reserve and scientific reserve) are the populations recovering?

We would like to find out how some activities on Kapiti beaches (eg beach driving and predators) may be affecting bird breeding, and we’re curious about why more penguins aren’t seen here.

Current work

We are carrying out boat-based surveys of shags at Kapiti and Mana Islands, and along the main Kapiti beaches. Shag species are a good indicator of marine health, so by monitoring changes in their populations we can observe broader changes in the marine environment.

Work with community groups is also underway to develop methods to monitor and record seabirds along the Kapiti coast.

Collaborators

Massey University, Kapiti Biodiversity Project, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Guardians of Kapiti Marine Reserve, Waikanae Estuary Care Group, Ngāti Toa Rangatira.

Understanding interactions between species

Using a computer model, we plan to show how changes in fishing or predation can change the number and size of fish in and around Kapiti Marine Reserve. Information about population sizes, predator and prey size, reproduction and distribution is required for the model. 

We are tagging fish in the Kapiti area to gather more information about the distribution of species - data from recaptured tagged fish will improve the accuracy of the model.

Research questions:

  • What is the impact of removing fishing pressure of the number of size and fish inside the marine reserve?
  • What will happen to the size and number of different fish species as the population of fur seal continues to grow?

Current work

We tagged 100 fish on 2 separate day trips to Kapiti in autumn 2019.

Collaborators

Victoria University, NIWA, Fisheries New Zealand.

We are encouraging fishers to get involved in this project by reporting the tagged fish they catch. Training is planned so fishers can obtain and use tagging kits from the Tindale Marine Research Charitable Trust.

Using remote techniques for monitoring

Water quality monitoring is one way of measuring the impact of land-use, pollution and climate change on the coastal environment. Using remote water quality instruments suspended beneath a surface buoy can make gathering water quality information much more efficient. 

A high-tech buoy and instrument mooring (called WRIBO-K, Wellington regional integrated buoy observations Kapiti) is proposed to be installed between Kapiti Island and the Kapiti mainland in late 2019. A similar buoy and mooring was deployed in Wellington Harbour in 2017 (WRIBO) and measures currents, waves, salinity, temperature, sediment, oxygen, chlorophyll, pH and wind direction and speed at the surface.

Research questions:

  • Can remote sensing equipment be used to monitor long term environmental changes in coastal environments?
  • How do interactions between Kapiti Island and the d’Urville current affect biodiversity and coastal productivity?
  • How do rivers on the Kapiti Coast affect the marine area in winter and during storm events?

Current work

Greater Wellington Regional Council, NIWA and DOC are working together to purchase the monitoring equipment and plan the next steps for deploying the buoy and water quality instruments, with input from iwi and the Guardians of the Kāpiti Marine Reserve Trustees.

Collaborators

Greater Wellington Regional Council, NIWA.

Habitat mapping

We are identifying and mapping biological habitats (like mussels and kelp) and physical habitats (like sand ripples, rocky reef and pinnacles) at Kapiti and mapping their size and location. 

Research questions:

  • How effective is the marine reserve at protecting different habitats and species?
  • What ecosystem services are provided by the habitats around Kapiti Island?

Current work

In 2015, the seafloor around Kapiti Island (including the marine reserve) was mapped using a multibeam system. Backscatter data was collected at the same time and is being processed in this project to generate new geophysical data layers. These layers will be integrated with seafloor data (geology and biology) to produce biological habitat maps or models of habitat suitability. 

To date we have produced 2 maps and a book chapter describing the seafloor geomorphology. Next steps are to integrate the geophysical data (processed backscatter data set) with the seafloor morphology and biodiversity metrics to produce biological data layers.

The backscatter data is being processed by an intern at NIWA and a Master’s student at Victoria University is integrating the processed backscatter data with the biological data layers. The goal is to produce a series of targeted habitat and habitat suitability maps inside and outside the marine reserve, with uncertainties included.

Collaborators

DOC, NIWA and Victoria University

Monitoring intertidal zones

Greater Wellington Regional Council initiated rocky intertidal surveys in the Kapiti region. The Marine Sentinel Site programme enabled additional surveys to be carried out at Kapiti and Mana Islands.

Research question:

  • What species are typically present in the rocky intertidal areas surrounding Kapiti and Mana islands?

Current work

Final report: Kāpiti and Mana Island Rocky Shore survey, 2019
Collaborators

This was a joint project between DOC and Greater Wellington Regional Council. Salt Ecology was contracted to assist with the fieldwork and write technical reports. Kapiti Island Eco and Kapiti Island Nature Tours also provided support.

Read more and watch a video about this project on the Conservation Blog

Other projects

LEARNZ virtual field trip

DOC supported LEARNZ to create a virtual field trip at Kapiti Marine Reserve targeted at school children in years 4–10. The field trip was a collaboration with community groups, including the Guardians of Kapiti Marine Reserve, and was run during Seaweek in March 2019. See LEARNZ website.

Contact

For more information email marine@doc.govt.nz

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