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Irish Atlantic Case Study




The Irish Atlantic Case Study is focused on shellfish aquaculture and associated industries and the effect of climate change on harmful algal blooms (HABs), caused by biotoxin producing microalgae. In Ireland, the shellfish industry provides crucial employment and supports the livelihood of many local communities. A high number of businesses are located in the southwest coast, which is our main target area in this case study.

Figure 1. Mussel farms in Bantry Bay. Left: Surface floats supporting rope grown mussels. Right: Rope grown mussels ready for harvest. Photo credit: BMRS


HABs can cause substantial damage to the industry by causing prolonged closures of farms, loss of produce and potentially damage to reputation. It is estimated that there is ~ €530,000 loss due to HABs in SW Ireland each year. Our target species include Dinophysis and Pseudo-nitzschia, which cause diarrhetic and amnesic shellfish poisoning respectively.

Figure 2. Left: Light microscopy image of Dinophysis Right: DSP concentration in Mussels in Bantry Bay (weekly averages) between 2007 and 2017. Solid line indicates regulatory limit of 0.16

Growth and toxin production of these species have previously been linked to environmental drivers such as temperature, turbulence and nutrients. Possible future changes could include a change in HAB periods, toxin production or species composition, which might also include the introduction of potentially harmful species currently limited to warmer Atlantic or Mediterranean waters. To determine possible future effects we employ statistical, hydrodynamic and climate forecast modelling together with analysis of long term time series of biological and environmental data. The aim of this is to assess possible future trends and co-develop climate change services, which are not yet available in Ireland.

Figure 3. CoCliME basic concept and planned outcomes

Co-development and co-production of relevant climate services is a fundamental aspect of the CoCliME project. Irish co-developers include the seafood and tourism industry, regulators and policy makers. Co-developers can provide a unique insight into HABs while raising concerns about future environmental changes caused by human activity. It is also crucial for us to receive feedback on current services and suggestions for improvement. 

CoCliME EU partners working on the French Atlantic, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Mediterranean and North & Norwegian Sea supply us with additional information on HABs in different marine environments, which provides context for prediction of future trends in Ireland.

Figure 4. Partners and Co-developers within CoCliME

For this project, we use data from various sources, including hydrodynamic model data, environmental measurements from weather stations or ocean buoy and shellfish monitoring data. The monitoring program lead by the marine institute provides data on cell counts near shellfish production sites and toxin levels in farmed shellfish. This data is combined with environmental data such as wind, air temperature and nutrient conditions to create a mathematical description of the environmental conditions most likely to be present during observed harmful events. The next step of data analysis will be to couple results with environmental predictions for the next 5 to 50 years to develop much needed understanding of how future changes will affect HABs. This will consequently allow the co-development and provision of appropriate climate services based on stakeholders’ needs and expectations.


Figure 5. Data analysis and statistical modelling schematic