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Environmental domains

Under New Zealand’s environmental reporting framework, the environment is divided into five domains. We report on each of these separately, although strong links exist between each domain.

Figure 1:


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This image illustrates the five domains we report on: air, atmosphere and climate, fresh water, land, and marine.

  • The air domain comprises the shallow gas layer that surrounds Earth. It is made up mainly of nitrogen and oxygen, which are essential to life. Our air also includes other gases and small quantities of vapour and particles. Many of these are pollutants produced by human activities and can be harmful to our heath and the environment.
    This domain does not include stratospheric ozone or the effects of greenhouse gases on Earth’s climate – these aspects are included in the atmosphere and climate domain.
  • The atmosphere is the layer of gases that surrounds Earth. Climate is the pattern in variables such as temperature, humidity, wind, and precipitation. Industrial, agricultural, and other human activities emit gases that affect the atmosphere and climate.
  • The freshwater domain comprises fresh water in all its physical forms. This includes fresh water in rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands, and aquifers. Fresh water is vital to our economy. The way we use it affects its biodiversity and suitability for recreation, and other uses such as drinking. The way we use land also affects water quality.
  • This domain does not include atmospheric water, or water in the marine domain.
  • The land domain comprises the soil, the underlying rock, and what is on the land surface, such as vegetation and human-made structures. The way we use our land influences its productivity, and affects our indigenous biodiversity and ecosystems.
  • The marine domain extends from the seashore to the outer limits of New Zealand's exclusive economic zone, and includes the continental shelf. Our marine environment supports biodiversity, fishing, oil and gas and minerals extraction, tourism, and recreation. The long-term condition of our oceans is affected by climate change.

We report on biodiversity in the freshwater, land, and marine domains. This report also includes a chapter presenting the impacts on biodiversity – an example of a cross-domain reporting approach that future reporting may take.