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Science of The Total Environment
Volume 785, 2021, 146997

Multi-objective zoning for aquaculture and biodiversity

Chiara Veniera,b,1, Stefano Menegonb,1, Hugh P. Possinghamc,d, Elena Gissie,b,f, Andrea Zanellag, Daniel Depellegring

Institute of Polar Sciences (ISP), National Research Council, via Torino, 155 - 30172 Venice-Mestre, Italy.


Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production industry in the world yet research and guidance demonstrating strategic multi-objective zoning for sector expansion is scarce. Quantifying and mitigating conflicts and impact on sensitive coastal environments through jointly-optimized objectives for aquaculture and biodiversity simultaneously has not been tested yet. We here develop and evaluate six alternative planning scenarios for one of the European Union's highest priority bivalve shellfish aquaculture areas, the Emilia-Romagna Region in Italy. We i) develop an aquaculture profitability surface as a function of the distance from main ports, and in parallel build a fine-scale aquaculture suitability distribution surface for important commercial species using multi-criteria analysis; ii) prioritize protected areas for biodiversity while testing how different considerations of human impacts influence priorities; iii) simultaneously plan for aquaculture and biodiversity while minimizing impacts on other maritime activities. We compare results from different scenarios according to how well they capture suitable aquaculture habitats and minimize impacts. We introduce a new evaluation method for scenario comparison in spatial optimization using a nearest-neighbor analysis for spatial pattern similarities. Lastly, we test the “value of information” provided by our investment in developing the fine-scale suitability surface to improve efficiencies.

Keywords: Biodiversity conservation, Maritime spatial planning, Marxan and Marxan with zones, Multi-objective zoning, Sustainable aquaculture development, Value of information.

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