Protecting Portugal’s Aveiro Lagoon

How grid computing allows for a better management of coastal resources.

The Aveiro Lagoon in Portugal is a national treasure. With a length of about 45km and separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a sandy dune barrier, this shallow lagoon is one of Europe’s last pristine coastal marshes and a haven for many bird species. The Ria de Aveiro, as it is known locally, is also an important source of revenue in the region, fuelling not only the tourism and aquaculture industries but also artisan fishing and the collection of fleur de sel, a prized variety of salt.
In the past few years the lagoon (technically a half-delta) has been threatened by a decrease in water quality due to industrial, urban and agricultural effluents, but thanks to the Ria’s economic, ecologic and cultural importance, there is a strong push to preserve its ecosystem. The key to long-term sustainability is efficient management and to achieve that, decision-makers need to have a solid understanding of this environment.

Marta Rodrigues and Anabela Oliveira, together with colleagues from National Laboratory for Civil Engineering, Portugal (LNEC), applied a three-dimensional computational model called ECO-SELFE to the Aveiro Lagoon scenario. ECO-SELFE is a fully-coupled ecological-hydrodynamic model. This means that it has modules that determine physical variables (e.g. currents, water temperature or salinity) alongside others for biochemical processes (e.g. carbon, nitrogen cycles) and even ecological relationships at the base of the food chain (e.g. plankton mortality or availability of prey). The idea was to determine how the different ecological input parameters are interconnected and which ones are the most likely to affect the model results and the health of the lake.


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