2015-2017

Understanding the Effects of China's Mariculture Development on Coastal Fisheries with Hydrodynamics and Sediment Transport Modeling

Researchers

Principal Investigator
  • Gloria and Richard Kushel Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment
  • William Wrigley Professor of Earth System Science
  • Senior Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
  • Professor, by courtesy, Economics
Research scholar

Growth in shellfish, marine finfish, and seaweed production is being promoted aggressively in China to offset pressure on near-shore fisheries and to meet the country’s rising seafood demand. This project examines the potential impacts of large-scale mariculture infrastructure (pens, cages, and drift lines) on coastal processes and wild fisheries through the development of integrated hydrodynamic, sediment transport, and ecological models. With the direct involvement of leading aquaculture and marine scientists in China, the project aims to improve the siting and monitoring of coastal mariculture operations, and to provide policy guidance on intensive mariculture development that is compatible with the rehabilitation of wildfish stocks.

We will develop and employ a hydrodynamics model and associated nutrient-phytoplankton-zooplankton (NPZ) model to understand the impact of China’s large mariculture systems on flow, sediment transport, and food web dynamics.  We will develop numerical models of shallow water embayments (where the mariculture systems are typically located) to examine how high-density farming alters local hydrodynamics, with a focus on the following questions:

  • How do extensive mariculture systems impact residence times of nutrients and phytoplankton in embayments?
  • How do large mariculture systems alter sediment transport in embayments?
  • How do large mariculture systems alter phytoplankton dynamics, and hence the productivity of embayments?
 
The research project will consist of three main steps:
  1. Conduct a preliminary scoping trip to China to identify field sites, establish faculty and student collaborations, and review ongoing research and model-building on this topic in China (including existing work in the Chinese literature);
  2. Develop hydrodynamic and NPZ models at Stanford;
  3. Promote knowledge-to-action through scientific publications, the creation of visual simulations for policy communication, and a final workshop in China intended to engage senior marine scientists in a science-to-policy plan of action.