Marine aquaculture can be criticised for the negative effect it can have on the environment. But could aquaculture, under certain circumstances, have positive effects on surrounding ecosystems? A team of scientists from the University of Adelaide, The Nature Conservancy and Macquarie University wanted to find out.

Their conclusions are published today in BioScience. They found that while negative impacts can occur from aquaculture (largely through poorly designed, sited, regulated or operated facilities) there is a growing body of evidence to suggest we may be overlooking the broader, positive ecosystem and social benefits associated with aquaculture operations in marine environments, such as shellfish, algae and fish farming.

Lead author on the study, Dr Heidi Alleway from the University of Adelaide, explains: “Our reading found that aquaculture facilities can deliver a range of goods and services that provide benefits to people and nature, beyond merely the production of food, and may be able to be designed to boost these effects.”

Much like the ecosystem services provided free-of-charge by nature, these benefits are the goods (such as food and medicines) and services (such as water treatment, shelter/habitat for wildlife and erosion prevention).

Heading a team of scientists on the study from The Nature Conservancy, Dr Chris Gillies, Marine Manager at TNC Australia said, “we found that these benefits can sometimes mitigate and even outweigh negative impacts, which is important to bear in mind as we face the global challenge of providing food sustainably to a growing population.”

Only a small portion of the Earth’s surface is currently used for aquaculture. Its potential to produce food for a hungry world is immense. For example, it has recently been estimated the current total landings of all wild-capture fisheries could be produced using less than 0.015% of the global ocean area[1].

Aquaculture benefits can sometimes mitigate and even outweigh negative impacts, which is important to bear in mind as we face the global challenge of providing food sustainably to a growing population
Marine Manager, TNC Australia

Ensuring aquaculture can deliver ecosystem services, without these benefits being compromised by negative impacts, requires aquaculture facilities to be more conscious of their design and their interactions with their surroundings, to maximise the positive effects.

The paper published illustrates that recognition and more active accounting of the positive benefits that might be delivered by marine aquaculture needs to occur to provide a broader and more accurate valuation of the full range of effects. If this occurs, it could be a major driver of improved ecological and social benefits from aquaculture activities, alongside economic outcomes.

[1] Gentry RR, Froelich HE, Grimm D, Kareiva P, Parke M, Rust MB, Gaines SD, Halpern BS. 2017. Mapping the global potential for marine aquaculture. Nature Ecology and Evolution 1: 1317–1324

Original story by The Nature Conservatory here

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One of the world’s leading Cambrian researchers, Associate Professor Diego C. García-Bellido of the South Australian Museum and the University of Adelaide, Environment Institute has helped create a new display at the South Australian Museum. It showcases some of the world’s oldest and most important fossils, including the oldest apex predator in Australia, which are found […]

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An international group of researchers, including Prof. Alan Cooper from the Environment Institute & Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), have uncovered remarkable details about the population history of Central and South America Recently published in the journal Cell, two previously unknown genetic exchanges between North and South America have been revealed. The genomes of 49 […]

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New research has shed light on the origin and extinction of a giant, shaggy Ice Age rhinoceros known as the Siberian unicorn because of its extraordinary single horn. An international team of researchers from Adelaide, Sydney, London, the Netherlands, and Russia, have settled a long-standing debate about the relationship of the Siberian unicorn to living […]

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Researchers at the University of Adelaide have found evidence of climate change that coincided with the first wave of European settlement of Australia, which effectively delivered a double-punch of drying and land clearance to the country. The research, published in Quaternary Science Reviews, suggests that eastern Australia, including Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, was much drier […]

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Guest post and images by Dr Jasmin Packer, Research Fellow of the Environment Institute with the School of Biological Sciences. Enter Jasmin: Many thanks again to the Environment Institute for sponsorship of last week’s UoA-DEW Wetland Productivity Workshop. Workshop aim: The workshop aimed to bring together DEW’s wetland management experts with UoA to define productivity […]

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The Environment Institute would like to welcome three new Advisory Board members: Bruce Northcote, Director, Office DV&VP(R) Ms Elanie Bensted, Chief Executive of ZooSA Professor Chris Daniels, Director Cleland Wildlife Park. Prof. Bruce Northcote is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Engagement) within the Division of Research & Innovation at the University of Adelaide. He is also CEO of […]

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We are delighted to announce that members of the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia have voted the Environment Institute’s Professor Kris Helgen as their newest Board member. Professor Helgen said he was, “excited by the opportunity for maintaining excellent rapport between the University and Adelaide and Monarto Zoos.” Professor Helgen is an expert on mammal evolution and […]

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This year’s third year marine ecology and biology field trip to Port MacDonnell was a huge success! A total of 32 students attended. We kicked off the trip by getting wet in the crystal clear waters of Ewens Ponds. Students snorkelled through the ponds making observations along the way, with a few spotting the iconic […]

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Upgrading to SmartStormwater Drains could be the future of urban rainwater tanks. Leading researcher Professor Holger R. Maier from School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering along with Water Technology and Optimatics in Adelaide have been working together to find solutions to prevent urban floods. Local governments are looking for innovative solutions to dealing with the increased […]

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