The use of kernel density estimation with a bio-physical model provides a method to quantify connectivity among salmon farms: spatial planning and management with epidemiological relevance

Danielle L. Cantrell, Erin E. Rees, Raphael Vanderstichel, Jon Grant, Ramón Filgueira, Crawford W. Revie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
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Connectivity in an aquatic setting is determined by a combination of hydrodynamic circulation and the biology of the organisms driving linkages. These complex processes can be simulated in coupled biological-physical models. The physical model refers to an underlying circulation model defined by spatially-explicit nodes, often incorporating a particle-tracking model. The particles can then be given biological parameters or behaviors (such as maturity and/or survivability rates, diel vertical migrations, avoidance, or seeking behaviors). The output of the bio-physical models can then be used to quantify connectivity among the nodes emitting and/or receiving the particles. Here we propose a method that makes use of kernel density estimation (KDE) on the output of a particle-tracking model, to quantify the infection or infestation pressure (IP) that each node causes on the surrounding area. Because IP is the product of both exposure time and the concentration of infectious agent particles, using KDE (which also combine elements of time and space), more accurately captures IP. This method is especially useful for those interested in infectious agent networks, a situation where IP is a superior measure of connectivity than the probability of particles from each node reaching other nodes. Here we illustrate the method by modeling the connectivity of salmon farms via sea lice larvae in the Broughton Archipelago, British Columbia, Canada. Analysis revealed evidence of two sub-networks of farms connected via a single farm, and evidence that the highest IP from a given emitting farm was often tens of kilometers or more away from that farm. We also classified farms as net emitters, receivers, or balanced, based on their structural role within the network. By better understanding how these salmon farms are connected to each other via their sea lice larvae, we can effectively focus management efforts to minimize the spread of sea lice between farms, advise on future site locations and coordinated treatment efforts, and minimize any impact of farms on juvenile wild salmon. The method has wide applicability for any system where capturing infectious agent networks can provide useful guidance for management or preventative planning decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number269
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2018


  • fish farming
  • salmon
  • aquaculture
  • infestation pressure
  • kernel density estimation
  • marine ecosystems
  • data modelling

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