• Five loughs in northern Ireland are the object of study: Belfast Lough, Strangford Lough, Carlingford Lough, Lough Foyle and Larne Lough;

  • Statistical estimates of carrying capacity are a useful first approach, but which need to be built upon through the development and application of dynamic models which take into account complex feedbacks, whereby suspension feeding shellfish interact with ecosystem processes;

  • The work will be carried out over a two year period, which is short enough to meet regulatory needs but simultaneously allows for complementary data acquisition and full implementation of dynamic models.

The application of dynamic models, varying in both space and time, to each of the loughs, has several advantages over the use of statistical approaches which consider only the balance between food supply due to internal processes and boundary exchanges and its removal by cultivated shellfish. Some key improvements expected from dynamic models of the type considered in this work programme are:

  • Explicit simulation using high resolution hydrodynamic and biogeochemical models of important event scale dynamics (turbulence and advection) that govern phytoplankton production and the transport and fate of bio-detritus (wave and current driven bed shear stress);

  • A description of water circulation and stratification-mixing dynamics adequate for upscaling detailed hydrodynamics to larger-scale, integrated ecosystem models;

  • Explicit resolution between phytoplankton and organic detritus as separate food sources, and their variation in time and space, both due to production and exchange;

  • Detailed modelling of the key physiological processes at the individual level for the target organisms, enabling simulation of environmental impact;

  • Explicit assessment of both near and far field impacts on water and sediment quality (water column and sediment eutrophication, sediment long and short term depositional zones, farm farm interactions);

  • Integration of biogeochemistry, population dynamics and cultivation practice, allowing a focus on target cohorts, which is essential for management.


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