Effects of climate and environmental variance on the performance of a novel peatland-based integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) system: implications and opportunities for advancing research and disruptive innovation post COVID-19 era
Rowan, Neil J.
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Advancing wet peatland ‘paludiculture’ innovation present enormous potential to sustain carbon-cycles, reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) gas emissions and to transition communities to low-carbon economies; however, there is limited scientific-evidence to support and enable direct commercial viability of eco-friendly products and services. This timely study reports on a novel, paludiculture-based, integrated-multi-trophic-aquaculture (IMTA) system for sustainable food production in the Irish midlands. This freshwater IMTA process relies on a naturally occurring ecosystem of microalgae, bacteria and duckweed in ponds for managing waste and water quality that is powered by wind turbines; however, as it is recirculating, it does not rely upon end-of-pipe solutions and does not discharge effluent to receiving waters. This constitutes the first report on the effects of extreme weather events on the performance of this IMTA system that produces European perch (Perca fluviatilis), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiis) during Spring 2020. Sampling coincided with lockdown periods of worker mobility restriction due to COVID-19 pandemic. Observations revealed that the frequency and intensity of storms generated high levels of rainfall that disrupted the algal and bacterial ecosystem in the IMTA leading to the emergence and predominance of toxic cyanobacteria that caused fish mortality. There is a pressing need for international agreement on standardized set of environmental indicators to advance paludiculture innovation that addresses climate-change and sustainability. This study describes important technical parameters for advancing freshwater aquaculture (IMTA), which can be future refined using real-time monitoring-tools at farm level to inform management decision-making based on evaluating environmental indicators and weather data. The relevance of these findings to informing global sustaining and disruptive research and innovation in paludiculture is presented, along with alignment with UN Sustainable Development goals. This study also addresses global challenges and opportunities highlighting a commensurate need for international agreement on resilient indicators encompassing linked ecological, societal, cultural, economic and cultural domains.
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