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EIT researcher has work cited by Climate Change report

April 13, 2022

 An EIT lecturer and researcher has had her work cited in an authoritative report of the influential International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Environmental Management lecturer Dr Dinusha Jayathilake, who started in EIT’s School of Primary Industries last year, has had her work mentioned in The Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, the Working Group II contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report.

The report gives a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of Climate Change, looking at ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities at global and regional levels. Chapter Three focuses on Ocean and coastal ecosystems and their services.

“There are nearly ten leading authors and thirty co-authors. They cited my ‘A modelled map of the global distribution of seagrass biome’ and ‘The global distribution of kelp biome’ research papers. Both maps are available on the UN-Environmental programme WCMC, ocean data viewer online portal as shapefiles.”

Dinusha says she is honoured to have her research cited by such an influential report.

“Having international recognition for my research made me happy. I never expected to ever see my research contributing to real global decision making.”

Dinusha, who has a PhD in Marine Science from the University of Auckland, says the objective of her PhD was to develop a complete map of different plant distributions (biomes) in the ocean (shallow sea).

“Biomes are large biogenic areas with the same plant life form. Terrestrial biomes such as savannah, tropical rain forests, and tundra are more familiar to us than the marine biomes. Mangroves and salt marshes form biomes along the coastal seashore, while seagrasses, kelps and coral occur in shallow sea water.”

“Before I started my PhD many studies had been done on terrestrial biomes, but very little in the marine domain. My PhD aimed to fill that research and technical gap.”

Dinisha said she worked on the distribution of seagrass, kelp, and mangroves and coral at a global scale.

“I used computer modelling software to develop probability distribution maps. As a result of my PhD research,  I developed two new global maps to show the possible distribution of seagrass and kelp.”

“Then I identified places that have multiple biomes such as mangrove and seagrass coral distributions within a 1km² area. The identification of overlapping biome areas is important for conservation of the fragile marine environment. For example, juvenile stages of fish species grow within these plant communities.”

Dinusha, who originally came to New Zealand as an international student from Sri Lanka, says she is hopeful that more of her research will be used as the world grapples with Climate Change.

Executive Dean Professor Nat Waran says: “This is a great example of the quality of the researchers we have at EIT. It is fantastic to see that their work is not only published and valued nationally and internationally but can also make meaningful contributions to understanding and resolving significant concerns.

“I am delighted to hear that Dinusha’s research has been recognised in this way.”