Bren Smith’s Ocean Farm: An Assessment of Ecosystem Services

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Mary Beth Decker
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Excess nutrients entering the Long Island Sound continue to cause prolonged hypoxic conditions each year despite increased regulations, and nutrient bioextraction through aquaculture is currently being researched as a potential solution. Bren Smith’s 3D Ocean Farm was designed to produce healthy and sustainable food while providing restorative ecosystem services to the local environment, such as nutrient bioextraction. This study calculates the annual removal of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus by the seaweed and shellfish cultivated on Smith’s aquaculture facility in the Sound. I found that Smith’s 20- acre farm was capable of extracting up to 77.4 tons of carbon, 10.7 tons of nitrogen, and 0.69 tons phosphorus each year. If many more farms modeled after Smith’s were to be set up, covering even just 3.2% of the Long Island Sound’s total surface area, 30% of annual anthropogenic nitrogen entering the Sound each year could be extracted through aquaculture. The 30% reduction would account for all nitrogen loading from atmospheric deposition. These results demonstrate that the farming of seaweed and shellfish can be a potentially useful method of mitigating the harmful effects of excess nutrients, such as hypoxia, in urbanized coastal ecosystems.