Carbon sink research attracts $8.6m funding

University of Otago Geology Department Associate Prof Christopher Moy (left) and GNS Science...
University of Otago Geology Department Associate Prof Christopher Moy (left) and GNS Science strategy general manager Prof Gary Wilson check some core samples at their storage facility. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Few people will have heard New Zealand’s beautiful and pristine fiords being referred to as one of the country’s largest natural carbon sinks — unless they work with Christopher Moy.

Associate Prof Moy, of the University of Otago Geology Department, is looking for pathways towards carbon neutrality and the ability of fiords to soak up carbon.

His research has just received $8.6million over the next five years from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Endeavour Fund.

Prof Moy said carbon sinks acted like sponges to soak up carbon compounds, but not much was known about how factors such as human activity or climate change could trigger a tipping point and reduce the effectiveness of fiords to absorb carbon in the future.

He said the answers might lie in an extensive multi-disciplinary programme, a collaboration between Ngai Tahu, Fiordland Marine Guardians, and a team of New Zealand and international scientists.

"These unknown aspects limit our ability to undertake effective environmental management strategies, and determine how the system will respond to future climate change.

"As more pressure is placed on the Manapouri Power Station to meet our 100% renewable electricity ambitions, we need to determine how variability in introduced freshwater threatens carbon storage in Doubtful Sound.

"Through a unique observation and modelling programme, our work will provide the scientific basis to determine how future changes in fiord circulation, driven by changing climate and changes in Manapouri Power Station generation capacity, will impact the fiord carbon sink."

Eight other Otago researchers also received $1million each, over three years, from the Endeavour Fund’s Smart Ideas grants.

The nine Otago scientific research projects are among 69 nationwide to receive a share of $244million.


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