Using in situ eDNA and sediment bioassays to determine the assimilative capacities of benthic invertebrate communities to aquaculture inputs

Lead Applicant: Neil Rooney

Research Priority: Animal Health & Welfare 

Program Type: Tier 1

Funding Cycle: 2023/2024

Research Centre: NA

Research Summary: For freshwater salmonid aquaculture to expand sustainably, effects of aquaculture inputs on the benthos (organisms at the bottom of freshwater bodies of water) and their habitat must be quantified. Two challenges faced by the industry are i) quantifying effects of netpen (enclosed floating cage) inputs on the survival, growth and reproduction of benthic invertebrates and ii) scaling such results up to benthic communities impacted by netpen operations. The cost and time required to characterize aquaculture associated benthic communities represents a significant investment for operators. Here, we propose two separate but linked studies. The first will adopt a novel laboratory-based ecotoxicological approach to quantifying the effects of aquaculture inputs on the biology of benthic invertebrates. The second will employ eDNA tools to characterize benthic invertebrate communities associated with different levels of aquaculture inputs from existing commercial operations. By adopting approaches that address effects at scales from individuals to communities, this research will help to derive sustainable feed quotas for the industry.