Modelling tools for shellfish aquaculture

Ecological modelling is the use of systems analysis and simulations to mimic complex ecological systems.  Due to the highly complex and dynamic nature of many shellfish aquaculture sites (e.g. estuaries and sea lochs), modelling responses to environmental change requires resolution of environmental conditions at fine spatial and temporal scales.

ROSA will address this complexity by using a complimentary suite of mature and well-tested numerical models:

The Models

FVCOM the Finite-Volume Coastal Ocean Model provides 3D simulations of the physical properties (e.g. currents, stratification, salinity, temperature) and is able to connect regional scale climate drivers with local scale responses, potentially at scales down to a few metres.

The European Regional Seas Ecosystem Model (ERSEM) is a generic ecosystem model, which when coupled to a physical model, is able to simulate the principle dynamics of the marine system from global to coastal shelf seas. Among other outputs, ERSEM simulates chlorophyll a, total particulate organic matter and food quality. Further details and links to the latest version of the code are available at

ShellSIM is a mathematical model that simulates shellfish growth, population dynamics and the environmental impacts of aquaculture.  ShellSIM outputs help quantify consequences of natural shellfish communities and/or culture practise for both shellfish production and the environment, with applications that include management of water quality, ecological status, habitat conservation, shellfish restoration, integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA), nitrogen or carbon credits for nutrient trading, profit maximisation and aquaculture insurance. 


The models described above will be coupled and interfaced through ShellGIS.  This is a transferable desktop-based GIS tool that simulates population dynamics and profitability at the farm scale. ShellGIS has been designed for aquaculture growers, water body mangers and industry regulators. The advanced ShellGIS desktop tool will undergo testing by expert and non-expert users, and their recommendations implemented as appropriate and feasible.

The bespoke interface allows the user to choose from clear options that define farm size and location, farm practice and whether seeding is suspended or on the bottom. 

ShellGIS allows users to find information on a defined but optional set of questions including among others:

  1. What space is available to grow shellfish through a chosen area?

  2. How do water flow, temperature and salinity vary through that chosen area?

  3. Where will the fastest shellfish growth rates and/or highest profitability be achieved in that chosen area?

  4. What are any effects of time of seeding, seed size and seed density?

  5. What is the zone of influence on water quality around my culture?

Through ROSA these questions will be refined and expanded to meet the needs the aquaculture community.