By Daniel Collins
Freshwater issues are among the most important environmental issues facing New Zealanders and receive frequent news coverage. Degraded water quality and its link to dairying in particular is a case in point. Examining the policy and the policy-relevant science are important in order to resolve these issues, and are frequent topics here at Waiology (including last year’s series on water quality) but sometimes it’s also important to take a step back. To satisfy our innate curiosity with the world around us and to improve our management and use of it, it is good to ask what it is about our freshwater environment that makes it interesting, useful, or unique.
This is a question of natural history.
How much water do we have and where does it come from? How does water shape the landscape and the vegetation across it? How does the landscape determine the natural water flows and quality? What traits have species evolved to survive and thrive in their respective freshwater environments?
With these questions in mind, Waiology presents 2014’s Freshwater in Focus series on the natural history of New Zealand’s freshwaters. Over the next two or so months we will publish articles from scientists across New Zealand and across disciplines. (As of this writing, the list is still growing.)
As Waiology’s editor I have purposefully chosen expansive interpretations of “natural history” and “freshwater”. Anything that examines natural processes and patterns of water or what the water facilitates before it flows to the sea or evaporates back into the atmosphere is included. This obviously includes freshwater bodies and their inhabitants, but also terrestrial ecosystems, glaciers, estuaries, and much else. To provide all-important context, I have extended the scope further to include relevant geology, geomorphology and climate science. And while natural history has historically relied on observations to fuel its accounts, sometimes even anecdotal, here I include experimental methods and numerical models as they are also very useful in helping us understand nature.
So stay tuned for some great articles and get involved in the discussion. You can keep up to date with Waiology on Facebook, Twitter or via RSS feed. Any feedback about articles and the series would be greatly appreciated.
Dr Daniel Collins is a hydrologist and water resources scientist at NIWA.