The environmental research theme within the Sustainable Aquaculture Group is led by Professor Trevor Telfer and encompasses environmental impacts, environmental sustainability, the ecosystem approach to aquaculture (and the associated socio-economic issues), and all aspects of carrying capacity. This involves a variety of methods and approaches including environmental sampling, monitoring, and prediction and simulation with mathematical, dynamic and spatial models, all of which contributes to planning, development and management of sustainable aquaculture across the World. In addition to research, the group also has an active commercial branch that focuses on environmental assessment and management of aquaculture, particularly water and sediment quality.


Environmental assessment and modelling

Modelling waste distribution from fish cages

Modelling waste distribution from fish cages

We investigate environmental sustainability of aquaculture production and development, focusing on development of modelling tools to investigate environmental effects and sustainability, and studies on the environmental effects of chemicals used within the worldwide aquaculture industry. We have worked on many projects across the world covering different species and systems.

Recent work has included modelling the nutrient flow within Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture Systems (IMTA) and modelling the nitrogen loading from large yellow croaker cage aquaculture in China.


Ecosystem approach to aquaculture and carrying capacity

The Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture (EAA) is a strategic approach to development and management which aims to integrate aquaculture within the wider ecosystem. A key component of this is carrying capacity, the level of resource use that can be sustained over a long term by the natural regenerative power of the environment. Our group has worked on this research area for many years and has a lot of experience in carrying capacity assessment, including co-editing the FAO Proceedings “Site Selection and carrying capacities for inland and coastal aquaculture”. Professor Telfer is also coordinating the large EU H2020 TAPAS (Tools for Assessment and Planning of Aquaculture Sustainability) project that began in March 2016 and aims to consolidate the environmental sustainability of European aquaculture by developing modelling tools, approaches and frameworks to aid more efficient aquaculture licensing through effective use of physical-ecological-production-social carrying capacity.


SpAtial analysis of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine systems

A key area of our research is the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial analysis for decision support in aquaculture, led by Dr Lynne Falconer. We use GIS and remote sensing tools to develop models that can be used for site selection, zoning, carrying capacity assessment, investigation of production potential and assessment of environmental impacts. We have extensive experience working across all spatial scales from an individual farm to the global level, encompassing terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine systems. We also work on broader, multi-sectoral, coastal zone management and marine spatial planning.

Examples of our work includes modelling the physical suitability of coastal and offshore environments for cages, visual impact assessment of aquaculture and investigation into new methods for site selection.


Climate change

Another important area of research is climate change and the potential implications for aquaculture. This work has included global scale assessment of vulnerability of aquaculture-related livelihoods to changing climate as well as more local and regional level work. The group are also part of the large EU H2020 ClimeFish project, coordinated by the University of Tromso, which started in April 2016 and aims to develop production scenario forecasts for fisheries and aquaculture production in Europe. We are developing production models for farmed salmon, mussels and oysters and coordinating a Scottish shellfish aquaculture case study.