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Sea water - our blue horizon

Updated: Mar 26

'Sea water - a blue horizon' is the theme for this year's Orakei Enviro Forum on May 26.

Auckland is a city of and by the oceans - the Hauraki Gulf and Pacific Ocean on one side, and Tasman Sea on the other. The vast expanse of sea water stretches out before us, painting the horizon in shades of mesmerising blue. This abundant natural resource covers over 70% of the Earth's surface, playing a crucial role in sustaining life on our planet. Sea water is a source of inspiration and relaxation for many people, with its calming waves and endless beauty captivating our hearts and minds.

Image by Indie Ford, age 10 (Whangapoua, Coromandel)

Sea water is a complex mixture of salts, minerals, and organic matter, creating a unique ecosystem that supports a diverse range of marine life.

Image by Jesse Radford, age 12 (Mangawhai Heads)

Coastal wetlands provide essential habitats for a wide variety of bird species. These unique ecosystems are found where land and water meet, creating a diverse environment that supports numerous bird populations. Birds such as oystercatchers, herons, ducks, and native and migratory shorebirds can be commonly spotted in coastal wetlands, using the area for nesting, feeding, and resting during migration. The abundance of food sources like fish, insects, and plants in these habitats attract birds throughout the year.

Image by Jesse Radford, age 12 (Robert Findlay Wildlife Reserve, Pukorokoro)

The Pukeko is a very familiar bird to the residents of Auckland. Also known as the Australasian swamphen, it is a striking bird only found in New Zealand. With its vibrant blue and purple feathers, long legs, and red bill, the Pukeko is a distinctive sight in wetlands and grasslands. These birds are known for their loud, territorial calls and their ability to adapt to various habitats. Pukeko birds are omnivores, feeding on a diet of insects, seeds, and plants. They are skilled swimmers and can often be seen wading through shallow water in search of food. Pukeko birds play an important role in the ecosystem and are a beloved symbol of New Zealand wildlife.

Image by Indie Ford, age 10 (Tahuna Torea reserve)

You can always spot Pukekos and their chicks at the Tahuna Torea reserve. The Tahuna Torea biodiversity focus area is situated on the coast at Glendowie. It includes a long sand bank which extends out into the Tamaki Estuary. It also has a tidal lagoon with mangrove scrub, freshwater wetlands and regenerating native forest and scrub. The area provides a mosaic of marine, intertidal, freshwater and terrestrial habitats.

Fifty years ago, the triangle-shaped spit of land close to the mouth of the Tamaki Riverwas an inaccessible, boggy, weed-infested area, overgrown with brambles, wild fennel and gorse. It looked set to be dug up and turned into a marina or become a council tip and gradually filled in with rubbish. Today, thanks to the efforts of a dedicated local community organisation – the Tamaki Estuary Protection Society, supported by Auckland Council – the area known as Tahuna Torea is home to a wide variety of native bird species, and is visited by more than 50,000 people a year.

Image by Emily Tait, age 10 (Tahuna Torea reserve)

Tahuna Torea is a key shorebird roost in the Tamaki Ecological District. The habitat diversity attracts a wide range of coastal and shorebirds birds including torea (oyestercatcher), poaka (pied stilt), kuaka (bar-tailed godwit), tarapunga (red-billed gulls), karuhiruhi (pied shags) and matuku (white-faced heron). A variety of tracks and viewing points in the reserves provide visitors with opportunities to appreciate the beauty of this natural area and its diverse birdlife.

Shorebirds play vital roles in coastal ecosystems. Seagulls, known for their distinctive cries and scavenging habits, help keep beaches clean by feeding on fish scraps and other organic matter. They also help control insect populations near shorelines. Shorebirds, such as sandpipers and plovers, are essential for maintaining the balance of ecosystems as they feed on small invertebrates. These birds are also indicators of the health of coastal environments, with declines in their populations signaling potential ecological issues.

Image by Jesse Radford, age 12 (Waiwera)

Image by Finn Blackshah, age 11 (Mission Bay beach)

Coastal wetlands play a crucial role in providing protection against storms and flooding, making them vital for both birds and human communities. They act as natural buffers, absorbing excess water and reducing the impact of waves, helping to prevent erosion and flooding in coastal areas. By preserving and restoring these important habitats, we not only support bird populations but also safeguard the environment and promote biodiversity in our coastal regions.

Our coastal environments inspire us to create art. These two images from our students Finn and Indie illustrate the photographic art technique of intentional camera movement (ICM). ICM is a creative photography technique where the camera is deliberately moved during the exposure to create dynamic and abstract images. By experimenting with different movements, speeds, and angles, photographers can produce visually stunning and unique photos that convey a sense of motion and emotion.

Image by Finn Blackshah, age 11 (Ruakaka beach)

Image by Indie Ford, age 10 (Tahuna Torea reserve)

Not only does sea water give us wellbeing, inspire art and provide a habitat for countless species, it also plays a vital role in regulating the Earth's climate. The oceans absorb heat from the sun, helping to moderate temperature extremes on land.

However, the story is not all good. This vital function is leading to ocean warming, causing devastating impacts on marine life and ecosystems. Climate change is also contributing to sea level rise, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events like hurricanes and cyclones, further threatening coastal communities and biodiversity. Coastal erosion in New Zealand is a significant environmental issue that is exacerbated by extreme weather events. The country's long coastlines are vulnerable to erosion caused by factors such as rising sea levels, storm surges, and intense rainfall. Coastal areas in New Zealand are home to diverse ecosystems and communities, making them particularly sensitive to the impacts of erosion.

Image by Shafeek Allie, age 17

Extreme weather events, such as cyclones and heavy rainfall, can accelerate coastal erosion by increasing wave energy and sediment transport. This can lead to the loss of land, damage to infrastructure, and threats to biodiversity. In addition, erosion can expose coastal communities to increased risks of flooding and erosion-related hazards. To address coastal erosion and its impacts in New Zealand, sustainable coastal management strategies are essential. These may include beach nourishment, dune restoration, seawalls, and managed retreat.

Image by Indie Ford, age 10 (Whangapoua, Coromandel)

The New Zealand coastline boasts some of the most stunning and diverse landscapes in the world. From the rugged cliffs of the South Island to the golden beaches of the North Island, there is a beauty in its variety that is truly mesmerizing. The crystal-clear waters of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet the lush greenery of the land, creating a picturesque contrast that is a feast for the eyes. One of the most striking features of the New Zealand coastline is its pristine beaches. Whether you prefer the solitude of a secluded cove or west coast beach, or the lively atmosphere of a popular surf spot, there is a beach for everyone to enjoy. The turquoise waters and soft white sands make for a perfect setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Image by Shafeek Allie, age 17

Moreover, the marine life along the New Zealand coastline is equally captivating. From playful dolphins to majestic whales, the waters here are teeming with diverse and fascinating creatures. Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts can explore the colorful underwater world, while birdwatchers can marvel at the numerous seabirds soaring above the cliffs. The beauty of the New Zealand coastline is truly a sight to behold for nature lovers and adventurers alike.

As we gaze out at the blue horizon of the sea, let us remember the importance of preserving this precious resource for future generations. By taking steps to protect our oceans and reduce greenhouse emissions and pollution, we can ensure that sea water continues to enchant us with its beauty and sustain life on Earth for years to come.

These young photographers are part of IMAgEN8's nature photography programs.

Editor: Tushar Sharma


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