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As the human population grows, so too does the demand for resources. This demand has led to aquaculture becoming the fastest growing food production sector in the world. Due to environmental concerns associated with finfish aquaculture, Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) has been proposed to minimise any negative impacts, by co-culturing extractive aquaculture species from different trophic levels to remove excess organic and inorganic nutrients, using them for their own growth. This study, in the Atlantic area of Europe, aimed to identify the most suitable locations to establish a new IMTA system for the 3 species Salmo salar (Linnaeus, 1758), Mytilus edulis (Linnaeus, 1758), and Laminaria digitata ((Hudson) JV Lamouroux, 1813). Habitat suitability models were created using spatial jackknifing testing within MaxEnt software and analysed using ArcGIS (ArcMap 10.8.1). All Maxent models were better than random when predicting species distribution, with AUC values of 0.889 (S. salar), 0.876 (M. edulis) and 0.901 (L. digitata), indicating a high level of predictive power. Jackknife testing identified Chlorophyll A (mg m−3) and Salinity (PSS) as the 2 most important variables in the model for each species. Coastal areas of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Northern France were identified as highly suitable, with suitability decreasing in more southern environments. These areas were then assessed based on local vessel density, whether they were within a Marine Protected Area (MPA), and the site accessibility from nearby ports, according to the expected needs of a large-scale aquaculture system. As MaxEnt used wild population data to produce the models, environmental conditions at suitable areas were compared against known Salmo salar aquaculture sites in Scotland to further validate the suitability for IMTA purposes. The results of this study, and the identification of optimal conditions for each species, will provide aquaculture businesses with the information required for preliminary site selection, with the goal of further incorporating IMTA systems into the EU market in a sustainable way.


  • Aquaculture, Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, Habitat suitability modelling, Salmo salar (Linnaeus, 1758), Mytilus edulis (Linnaeus, 1758), Laminaria digitata ((Hudson) JV Lamouroux, 1813)
Original languageEnglish
Article number110459
JournalEcological Modelling
Early online date22 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023

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