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Toitu Te Moananui a Toi – The Effects of the MV Rena on the Water Quality, Chemistry and Zooplankton of Otaiti (Astrolabe Reef)

Humans have had a profound effect on the world’s oceans, particularly through pollution. Marine pollution incidents are particularly important and increasingly involve both petrochemical and metal contamination. The effects of complex high level, point source pollution events such as ship wrecks on larval recruitment to reef environments is not well understood. Larval settlement is heavily influenced by chemical cues, hence pollution events could have a long term influence on reef ecology, and the likelihood that planktonic zooplankton can entrain contaminants into the reef food web is also of concern. This thesis aims to address concerns from local Tangata Whenua, government, researchers, stakeholders and the public about the long term recovery of Otaiti following the MV Rena shipwreck and subsequent reef contamination. The incident is a complex one involving metallic container debris contamination along with oil. Research focussed on assessing the effects of water borne contamination surrounding the wreck site in order to examine acute and chronic responses of planktonic invertebrates: (1) the influence of Rena and associated debris to the chemistry and quality of water in the benthic zone around the wreck, (2) the toxicity of contaminants to survivorship of zooplankton, and (3) the influence on contaminant plumes to zooplankton recruitment behaviour of Otaiti. There is a clear effect from the Rena and its associated debris field on the water quality and chemistry of Otaiti. Aluminium and copper for example, were consistently elevated in dissolved and total metal concentrations around the debris field. Laboratory based exposure of zooplankton to realistic concentration gradients of Rena contaminated sediments resulted in increased mortality with increased contaminant concentrations. Behavioural responses of pelagic and settling invertebrates to Rena pollution influenced sediment highlighted sensitivity to associated contaminant plumes. This could have significant ecological implications to the recruitment behaviour of other planktonic organisms that rely on reef conspecifics and chemical cues to initiate settlement. Ecological concepts such as ecosystem function and biodiversity dynamics (including recruitment) relate the life force and longevity of a system. Key concerns within the scope of this research were highlighted that may have implications to Tangata Whenua decision making in assessing the Mauri of Otaiti. It can be implied that the Rena continues to impact the Mauri of Otaiti due to the presence of contaminants within the debris field.
Type of thesis
Dempsey, T. P. T. (2015). Toitu Te Moananui a Toi – The Effects of the MV Rena on the Water Quality, Chemistry and Zooplankton of Otaiti (Astrolabe Reef) (Thesis, Master of Science (MSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9893
University of Waikato
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