Microalgae as a natural ecological bioindicator for the simple real-time monitoring of aquaculture wastewater quality including provision for assessing impact of extremes in climate variance - a comparative case study from the Republic of Ireland
Rowan, Neil J.
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Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food producing industries globally, providing ~50% of fish for human consumption. However, the rapid growth of aquaculture presents a range of challenges including balancing environmental impact that can be influenced by variations in climatic conditions. Monitoring of physicochemical parameters is traditionally used to evaluate aquaculture output quality; however, this approach does not indicate the cumulative ecotoxicological effects on receiving waters. Specifically, this case study investigated the relationship between measuring traditional physicochemical parameters and the health of the alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata in order to evaluate the potential ecotoxicological effects of freshwater aquaculture on the receiving aquatic ecosystem in the Irish midlands. This constituted the first 2-year longitudinal study conducted in 2018 and 2019 that reports on the efficacy of using algae as a natural bioindicator to monitor and assess freshwater aquaculture wastewater from a traditional flow-through fish farm producing Eurasian Perch (Perca fluviatilis); monitoring was compared over a same six-month period in the same location each year. Findings demonstrated significant differences between the two monitoring periods when using P. subcapitata for assessing the quality of aquaculture intake (P = 0.030) and output (P = 0.039). No stimulatory effects were observed during 2019 unlike >50% rates experienced the previous year. These observations coincided with changes in climatic conditions whereby the 2018 period experienced extended levels of drought; whereas non-drought conditions were observed during 2019. Findings suggest that reliance upon traditional monitoring techniques may not provide sufficient robustness or versatility to address emerging issues, such as extremes in climate variance, which may influence the future intensive sustainability of freshwater aquaculture. This research supports the complementary use of P. subcapitata as a rapid and simple early-warning bioindicator for measuring aquaculture output quality on receiving aquatic ecosystems.
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