Taranaki focus for research

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014

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Taranaki's flora and fauna will go under the microscope when two Waikato University researchers get new projects under way in the region.

Nicole Sturgess and Kiri Cutting will be working on their respective projects looking at the benefits of marine reserves and urban ecological restoration.

Ms Sturgess, a former Spotswood College student, is now in Tauranga at the Waikato's Coastal Marine Field Station.

Both women are recipients of the George Mason Charitable Trust Scholarship, worth $5000 for each year of study, to assist with research.

The scholarship is awarded to postgraduate students with links to Taranaki and/or carrying out research relating to the region's natural history.

Ms Sturgess will carry out a biodiversity assessment in Parininihi Marine Reserve, north of Waitara, examining the factors that could explain the "high biomass of encrusting organisms" within the ecosystem. She will also be carrying out some sonar mapping of the seabed habitat on the Pariokariwa reef.

"The only other research done on the Pariokariwa reef was nearly 20 years ago," she said.

Meanwhile, Ms Cutting will be comparing restoration projects in New Plymouth and Hamilton, studying restoration areas carried out by organisations such as the New Plymouth District Council, Forest and Bird and the Taranaki Tree Trust.

Ms Cutting said she chose New Plymouth as Hamilton's comparison partner as it had "four times more native forest" in its city, including suburbs and outskirts, compared to Hamilton.

The generous amount of native trees found in New Plymouth made it a "healthier city to live in".

NPDC parks programme manager Steve McGill said the information gained from the study will be valuable to all agencies involved in ecology restoration.

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