Evaluating impact and environmental sustainability of aquaculture in the marine environment by means of Life Cycle Analysis

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By Milthon Lujan

Belgium.- In view of growing aquaculture activities in natural ecosystems, the Ghent University research groups ‘Marine Biology’ (Prof. Marleen De Troch) and ‘Environmental Organic Chemistry and Technology’ (Prof. Jo Dewulf) are working on a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). Ecological data, i.e. valuing marine biodiversity and energy flows in the marine food web will be included and integrated in the LCA.

So far, marine biodiversity sensitivity to sea occupation is not developed in a LCA. LCA frameworks to assess effects of land occupation on biodiversity are available but remain limited. In a first pilot study, the effects of seaweed farming on the surrounding ecosystem will be assessed and implemented in a LCA. This pioneering study started in partnership with At-Sea Technologies and focusses on seaweed farming in the Norwegian North Sea. Marine invertebrates were sampled in a standardized way while harvesting seaweed in a pilot farm. In order to assess changes in ecosystem functioning, organisms are weighted and sorted in functional groups.

A specific LCA model for the Norwegian North Sea will be established and will account for changes in ecosystem functioning, resulting from seaweed farming. Due to the fast development of seaweed aquaculture, the same approach is planned for seaweed farming in the Belgian North Sea. Such field campaign aims to describe a cause effect chain for seaweed farming activity in a specific region. The final goal is to monitor changes in marine ecosystem functioning by means of LCA. To the other end, LCA can be used as a decision tool prior to the installation of aquaculture activities in order to minimize the ecosystem impact.

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Source: Aquaculture Ghent University

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