Information about publication

Measuring the potential for sustainable intensification of aquaculture in Bangladesh using life cycle assessment

Henriksson, P.J.G., B. Belton, K.-M. Jahan and A. Rico. 2018. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115(12):2958-2963.


Food production is a major driver of global environmental change and the overshoot of planetary sustainability boundaries. Greater affluence in developing nations and human population growth are also increasing demand for all foods, and for animal proteins in particular. Consequently, a growing body of literature calls for the sustainable intensification of food production, broadly defined as “producing more using less”. Most assessments of the potential for sustainable intensification rely on only one or two indicators, meaning that ecological trade-offs among impact categories that occur as production intensifies may remain unaccounted for. The present study addresses this limitation using life cycle assessment (LCA) to quantify six local and global environmental consequences of intensifying aquaculture production in Bangladesh. Production data are from a unique survey of 2,678 farms, and results show multidirectional associations between the intensification of aquaculture production and its environmental impacts. Intensification (measured in material and economic output per unit primary area farmed) is positively correlated with acidification, eutrophication, and ecotoxicological impacts in aquatic ecosystems; negatively correlated with freshwater consumption; and indifferent with regard to global warming and land occupation. As production intensifies, the geographical locations of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, acidifying emissions, freshwater consumption, and land occupation shift from the immediate vicinity of the farm to more geographically dispersed telecoupled locations across the globe. Simple changes in fish farming technology and management practices that could help make the global transition to more intensive forms of aquaculture be more sustainable are identified.

Keywords: Sustainable intensification, Aquaculture, Life Cycle Assessment, Seafood, Fish

Back to publications