October 31, 2023
Kelp plantation planned for Motunau
A marine biologist is looking for ways mātauranga Māori can mesh with modern aquaculture to help restore the Bay of Plenty’s once-abundant kelp forests.
Rebecca Lawton from the University of Waikato has been awarded a five-year Rutherford Discovery Fellowship from the Royal Society Te Apārangi to pursue the idea.
She plans to develop tools to identify and improve the heat tolerance of kelp so it can survive marine heatwaves, and then work with kaitiaki from Ngāti Whakahemo to restore kelp forest at Motunau, which is a wildlife sanctuary and marine protected area east southeast of Motiti off the coast from Tauranga..
“What’s really cool is that we can take some of the techniques we have learned from aquaculture, so from growing kelp to farm it, and we can use these to restore the kelp. And there’s lots of really cool work going on both in New Zealand and globally now to develop techniques that are really more sort of nature friendly,” she says.
Dr Lawton says five years rather than the usual three-year research timetable means she has more time to explore the intricacies of kelp forest decline.