Impact of a changing climate

The impact of climate change will have a significant effect on New Zealand’s coastal environments. General warming and extreme warm events are likely to affect coastal ecosystems, particularly estuaries. McGlone and Walker concluded that the greatest short term risk to coastal biodiversity from climate change will come from mitigation measures to protect property and infrastructure, rather than from direct effects. 3099  They summarised the predicted impacts as follows:

  • Soft shores (beaches and mudflats) are likely to be more severely affected by sea-level rise than hard (rocky) shores;
  • New areas of estuary and marshland habitat will be created and will replace the inundated area;
  • Rising sea levels will probably remove large areas of the rich biological habitat represented by existing coastal dunes, estuaries and marshlands;
  • The most affected ecosystems will be those typical of dune systems, estuaries and saline, brackish (mixed saline and fresh water) and freshwater lagoons, shallow lakes and marshes. Loss of productive estuarine habitats and biota is likely to accelerate, with the more visible ecological effects being reduced populations and altered migratory patterns of coastal birds, and declines in certain marine fishes; and
  • Warming could extend the potential range of  mangroves, but threaten biologically important seagrass meadow habitats.

In addition, some of the greatest short-term risks for coastal environments are impacts on infrastructure and property.

  1. McGlone M and S Walker, 2011, ‘Potential effects of climate change on New Zealand’s terrestrial biodiversity and policy recommendations for mitigation, adaption and research’, Science for Conservation, 312

Last updated at 3:59PM on February 2, 2018