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Thesis: the greatest impacts of aquaculture on biodiversity are the possible invasion of escapees, the degradation of the environment, particularly through eutrophication, and the greater risk of harm caused to a wild population.
LINK TO IMPACT ON BIODIVERSITY (EFFECT) AQUACULTURE (CAUSE)
Aquaculture can be thought of as a practice that it similar to farming. It involves the cultivation of aquatic dwelling organisms either on land, in a tank system or artificial pond (offshore), or in a naturally occurring waterbody using nets or cages to contain the farmed organisms (Lee and Yoo 2014; Rabasso and Hernandez 2015). Aquaculture as an industry has grown significantly in the past few decades, growing to meet the demanding needs of the human food supply network (Diaz-Almela et al. 2008; Borja et al. 2009; Rabasso and Hernandez 2015), as it is an important natural resource (Ormerod 2003). This increase in captive cultivation has slowed the unsustainable practice of mass catching wild stocks as a supply (Santos et al. 2015; Frazer 2009). Aquaculture exists as one of the fastest growing industries in the world today (Naylor et al. 2001), and this growth is projected to increase ever further (Froehlic et al. 2017). Despite this, many of these cultured organisms can have a negative impact on the environment that they inhabit (Fleming et al. 1996; Boyd 2003), in part because of its proximity with the natural environment (Abdou et al. 2017). Aquaculture has the ability to greatly impact biodiversity as well if not carefully managed. These impacts on biodiversity can resonate through multiple trophic levels, and can completely change the natural environment. The greatest impacts of aquaculture on biodiversity are the possible invasion of escapees, the degradation of the environment, particularly through eutrophication, and the greater risk of harm caused to a wild population. Through these modes of disruption, aquaculture has the ability to drastically alter the present biodiversity if not managed appropriately.
#1: the possible invasion of escapees
The possibility of escaped organisms invading a habitat, and pushing out a native species is quite high when aquaculture is in or near existing waterbodies. A wide variety of organisms are farmed in the world (Naylor et al. 2001). From this, Aquaculture has led to the introduction of many invasive species into the ecosystem, and poor practices may cause invasion occurrences to happen more often (Naylor et al. 2001). The escape of cultured organisms can threaten both the habitats and gene pool of wild populations, causing them, and the surrounding biodiversity to change drastically (Fleming et al. 1996). The organisms that are either intentionally, or unintentionally released are able to reproduce in their new habitat rather successfully (Fleming et al. 1996; Volpe 2000). Many escapes such as salmon, are able to out compete, and out number the wild populations, thus threatening their survival (Fleming et al. 1996). Their invasion may lead to a change in ecosystem dynamics, effectively impacting the natural biodiversity that would otherwise be present.
#2: the degradation of the environment, particularly through eutrophication
The degradation of the natural environment is just one of the many drawbacks that Aquaculture presents. As a result of the exponential growth of the industry, the sustainability and environmental impact of Aquaculture is often scrutinized (Rabasso and Hernandez 2015) for the elevated levels of greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient pollution, water use, and land use that has followed (Gephart et al. 2016). There are many detrimental practices to Aquaculture such as: water pollution from pond discharge, the excessive use of antibiotics to combat disease, Salinization of land from pond leeching, and the mass consumption of freshwater for farming purposes (Boyd 2003). Many of these practices degrade the environment, and threaten biodiversity in such a way that is irreversible. Aquaculture, and in particular fish farms, are an increasing cause of “anthropogenic disturbance [in] benthic communities,” (Diaz-Almela et al. 2008). Often when farmed within an natural waterbody, fish cages and nets see the release of large quantities of organic waste matter that are spread by water-flow and may lead to biochemical changes, and cause the deoxygenation of the aquatic environment, further impacting benthic communities (Zhang and Kitazawa 2016; Diaz-Almela et al. 2008; O’Carroll et al. 2016). In the aquaculture industry, fish farming can promote an increased rate of eutrophication which can severely damage coastal ecosystems (Yu et al. 2016) through the addition of elements such as Nitrogen and Phosphorous (Penczak et al. 1982). The damage caused by eutrophication can lead to a disturbance like effect, which can in turn, cause a significant decrease in the biodiversity of that area (Abdou et al. 2017), further degrading the environment.
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In an attempt to combat the damage caused when farming within a natural ecosystem, many countries of the European Union (including Canada, the United States, and Australia) are beginning to establish offshore farming with the hope for improved sustainability (Froehlic et al. 2017).
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