Integrated Catchment Management

River plume ecosystem

 Research Status: Ongoing
Motueka River discharging into Tasman Bay

Motueka River discharging into Tasman Bay


The river plume ecosystem (RPE) is a relatively new global concept that has been adopted to explain the interaction between significant freshwater inputs (such as the Motueka River) and coastal marine receiving waters (such as Tasman Bay). This project defines the RPE in Tasman Bay and investigates its use for sustainable management of coastal resources.

Research Approach

A number of previous investigations have helped formulate the concept of the river plume ecosystem for management of Tasman Bay's fish and shellfish resources within the context of terrestrial and freshwater management. Research is focussed on a mix of real-time monitoring of the water column in Tasman Bay and more traditional sampling and analyses of seawater and seabed characteristics.

Research Results

The significance of the Motueka River to the productivity of Tasman Bay has been confirmed. This includes knowledge and importance of the actual freshwater inflow into Tasman Bay as well as the role of near bottom turbidity in terms of shellfish and primary production. The spatial extent of the RPE can generally vary from <50 to >300 km2 however during major floods the plume can extend to a much larger area (e.g. >1500 km2).

These results have led to redefinition of the area of the Motueka catchment to include the RPE. Findings have contributed to resource consent hearings in terms of aquaculture and marine farm development in both Tasman and Golden bays.

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Plume October 6, 2007. Photo: Graeme Butterfield Plume off Abel Tasman National Park

Plume October 6, 2007. Photo: Graeme Butterfield

Plume off Abel Tasman National Park

Recent Publications

Year Title File Size
2012 A Summary of Outcomes and selected formal publications from the Integrated Catchment Management (ICM)research programme:2000 – 2011
pdf       1.08MB
2011 Integrated Catchment Management – Special Issue of the NZ Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research  
2010 Spatial Delienation of the Motueka River Plume Influence in Tasman Bay based on Seabed Characteristics pdf       2.33MB
2008 Faecal Indicator Organism Modelling (FIO): Application to Motueka River pdf       1.40MB
2008 Nutrient Loading from the Motueka River into Tasman Bay, 2007 pdf       965KB
More publications on this topic »
All ICM Publications »

Recent Presentations

Year Title File Size
2007 Photo of the Motueka plume 597KB
2006 Fine Scale Assessment and River-Sea Links in the Motueka Catchment.  
2006 A river plume ecosystem concept for evaluating and managing catchment-sea linkages.  
2005 River plume effects on the coastal environment. pdf       446KB
2005 The Motueka River plume ecosystem. pdf       1894KB
More presentations on this topic »
All ICM presentations »

BMPs, BEPs and Guidelines

Title Description
Marine Recreational Fishing Guidelines  
Hold it...We’re Cleaning Up the Coast: Dealing with sewage safely and responsibly on your boat From website:
Information for boat owners on how to install and maintain the right sewage syst...More »  
Guide to Marine Farming Consent Conditions for Deemed Coastal Permits From guide:
This guide aims to support councils in planning for aquaculture1. It provides guid...More »  
All BMPs, BEPs & Guidelines »

Primary Contacts:

Image - Chris Cornelisen Chris Cornelisen  EmailSend email to chris.cornelisen
More details»
Cawthron Institute
Marine ecologist
Image - Paul Gillespie Paul Gillespie  EmailSend email to paul
Phone: 03 548 2319
Fax: 03 546 9464
Cawthron Institute
Estuarine & marine microbial ecology
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Page last updated Monday, 16 March 2009

Related areas

Ecosystem models of Tasman & Golden Bays Fine sediment: bringing the geomorphology and biology together Long term in–situ data collection in Tasman Bay River monitoring River plume ecosystem Science uptake by councils Sediment generation, delivery and impacts Sediment learning group Stream health – invertebrates Sustaining ecosystem services Tasman Bay productivity

Related Website(S)

TDC – Rivers and rainfall today