Starting a new chapter in life is always challenging and exciting, this time it is particularly so because I am throwing myself into a new area of research: soft-sediment habitats in the estuarine intertidal zone.
What are estuaries? They lie on the ecotone – the interface – between land and sea. As a coastal area with riverine and oceanic inputs they are among the most productive ecosystems on the planet: storing large amounts of carbon, driving nutrient fluxes and offering a vast amount of ecosystem services to us humans. Not surprisingly, about 70 % of all our megacities are located near estuaries and millions of people live off the food that these areas provide.
Estuarine areas are the scene of so many processes that we can’t even see when looking over the intertidal sandflats. As with many other ecosystems, they are subject to degradation from environmental and anthropogenic (man-made) stressors. Therefore, it is so important for us to study them and better understand how we can help these systems to maintain their “function” in the future.
I will study how we can aid the recovery of intertidal soft-sediment habitats after disturbance (that wipes out the important, living organisms) to regenerate the multifunctionality of the system faster. It is a very contemporary project, as we are heading into the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration as well as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021 – 2030).
It is good to see the Science in the context of the people, and the way we are living. In understanding how we can support the environment that we depend on, we are better equipped for decision-making and managing these areas to the benefit of both, ecological knowledge and the sustainable environments for the people. Working locally in the Tauranga Harbour (Aotearoa New Zealand) and with a strong focus on the biogeochemical processes that make this system functional, we are very excited to start into our first field season in November 2020!