A University of Waikato researcher looking at the potentially far-reaching consequences of removing mangrove forests is taking her work onto a new international stage.
Fulbright New Zealand has awarded Associate Professor Karin Bryan a 2018 scholarship to look at the impact of changes to mangrove forest environments. She will be going to Boston University in Massachusetts for three months from December.
In New Zealand, mangroves are not widely valued, but Dr Bryan says internationally they are seen as hugely significant for their function in things such as protecting the shoreline from tsunamis, and keeping the elevation of low lying and often highly populated areas above rising sea levels. She is using data that has already been collected to create what she hopes will be a robust new predictive model.
Dr Bryan says people must have a really good understanding of the consequences of taking mangroves away. “It’s all about people’s choices. You might not want mangroves to survive, but people shouldn’t remove them then say they didn’t realize what was going to happen.”
Her end game is making a step change in how people manage mangrove systems, which will be useful globally, and locally.
Karin Bryan says the Fulbright award is also a challenge for her personally. She is inspired by earlier recipients who have gone on to do great work, including Nobel Prize winners. “You’re focused on big problems, and big ideas with global impact - I think that’s a really good thing for Waikato, and to bring back here at the end of the process.”