AEI 5:71-88 (2014)  -  DOI:

Modelling biogeochemical fluxes across a Mediterranean fish cage farm

Daniele Brigolin1,*, Virna Loana Meccia1, Chiara Venier1, Paolo Tomassetti2, Salvatore Porrello2, Roberto Pastres1

1Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Calle larga S. Marta 2137, 30123 Venice, Italy
2ISPRA, Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, via di Casalotti 300, 00168 Rome, Italy
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: An integrated approach is described for modelling interactions between off-shore fish cages and biogeochemical fluxes of carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Two individual-based population dynamic models for European seabass Dicentrarchus labrax and gilthead seabream Sparus aurata were coupled with a Lagrangian deposition and a benthic degradation model. The individual models explicitly take into account the effects of water temperature and feed availability on fish growth. The integrated model was tested at a Mediterranean fish farm where a comprehensive set of in situ environmental and husbandry data was available. Tests were performed to compare the predicted and observed total organic carbon (TOC) concentrations in surface sediment under and near fish cages. At a local scale, the model output simulated the spatial distribution of 4 biogeochemical indicators, namely: TOC concentrations, C fluxes towards the seabed and C:N and C:P ratios. These allowed the most impacted areas and more extended areas of intermediate organic enrichment to be identified. The model was also used for estimating the mass balance of C, N and P, in order to determine the potential cumulative effects of multiple fish farms in the same area. The C, N and P fluxes among feed, fish and environment were calculated for each fish species over 24 mo of farm activity. The results showed that the amount of dissolved N directly released into the water column in inorganic form (ammonia/urea) was comparable to that deposited on the seafloor in particulate form as uneaten feed and faeces. A larger fraction of P (about 65%) was released as faeces. Results from the integrated model yielded useful information for assessing the sustainability of an area for aquaculture activities that could be used to provide a scientific rationale for fish farm development in new areas.

KEY WORDS: Nutrient budgets · Marine spatial planning · Ecosystem approach to aquaculture · Cage farming · Individual-based model · Particle tracking model

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Cite this article as: Brigolin D, Meccia VL, Venier C, Tomassetti P, Porrello S, Pastres R (2014) Modelling biogeochemical fluxes across a Mediterranean fish cage farm. Aquacult Environ Interact 5:71-88.

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