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Below are a few selected projects in which AQASS was involved. The summaries can be viewed through clicking and expanding the titles.

Marine

2021 - 2023

AQASS has a commercial research background in assessing the impacts of end-of-life glass fibre boat impacts and plastic material from boats, on marine ecosystems (UN studies here and here). In relation to this, we were approached to assess the possible pollution and habitat impacts of a glass fibre vessel wreck off the Moroccan coast. The vessel was lost after an impact, and had remained on the seabed. AQASS assessed physical and ecological habitat data to consider the risks of the vessel remaining in-situ versus being removed, as well as risks from disturbance. Utilising relatively sparse, though entirely useful, data and reports, we were able to develop an assessment of subsurface current pathways, geophysical habitats and presence of important benthic and intertidal / subtidal habitats and impact pathways, from which a risk assessment was developed.
ShipwreckAQASS were approached to undertake a data and environmental impact pathway study and assessment for a major shipping pollution incident off the Sri Lankan coast. The study considered all readily available academic and grey literature data on the incident itself, plus reporting and papers that assisted in characterizing the region and impact areas. The study assessed the value of data collected in relation to assessment of marine ecosystem impacts and recommended future options and resources to ensure that data are fit for purpose in assessing long term ecosystem change and resultant potential human related outcomes of the incident. AQASS was able to synthesize habitat characterizing data, plus physical environmental variables which enabled an assessment of pollutant pathways and resources necessary to assess longer term change. Further to this, recommendations were made for future sampling regimes and suitable level temporal ecological impact studies.
Horizontal Bar ChartAQASS is undertaking a requested research review of silicone foul release coatings. These antifoul paints are based on a “slippery surface” to inhibit primary settlement and significant attachment by fouling organisms. As they are listed as non-toxic, they are seen as an alternate to “traditional” toxic coatings which may contain biocides to inhibit algal attachment, or metal, usually copper, to repel settling organisms; copper is most toxic to fouling organisms in the dissolved phase. Whilst this appears an ideal, some concerns have been raised by researchers regarding the formulation of silicone FRC’s with questions raised on the use of certain catalysts in their production plus comments made on the release of silicone oils. Furthermore, the validity of the coating in terms of robustness has been previously questioned, with the weak attachment of the paint leading to damaged sloughing and leaving paint flakes coming off of hulls. We have been asked to undertake the review to update current understanding in a concise document.
Horizontal Bar ChartCollaboration with UK university on data analysis, interpretation and reporting for long term monitoring of organic pollutants and specifically contaminants of emerging concern (CEC) data and effects at the molecular level leading to practical management of pollutants for important conservation area within an intertidal and estuarine system along the south coast of the UK. Funding is through the EU Interreg Channel Project.
AQASS is regularly approached to undertake HRA’s. We have undertaken several HRA’s involving port and harbour dredging proposals, creation of public entertainment features, construction projects and habitat restoration schemes. Where a proposal has the potential to affect or influence a European qualifying habitat SPA (Special Protection Area) and SAC (Special Area of Conservation) an HRA is required to assess influences on qualifying features and to consider how these impacts may be avoided or managed such that no overall degradation in biodiversity, species abundance and richness and supporting habitat features are negatively affected. AQASS does not regularly undertake HRA’s, only where we feel the client is making positive efforts to manage the influence of their proposal. Increasingly the public are aware of human impacts on marine and freshwater systems. We have found greater engagement with us as a company by members of the public keen to understand what we do and how we work with marine to freshwater ecosystems. As a result, we are pleased to note the changing environment of greater awareness, and hope that the public’s increasing passion translates to commercial symmetry.
Wind farm analysisAssisting with GIS integration and interpretation of very high resolution geophysical survey data covering over a 1,000 km2 for major wind farm development project along the east coast of the USA. Data includes side scan sonar (SSS), multibeam echo sounder (MBES), backscatter, and magnetometry. Automation of integration and interpretation were conducted using bespoke Python scripting.
DogwhelksSite surveys and reporting for marine pollution study. Species abundance and morphology investigation; data fed into report to assess impacts and provide appropriate evidence for legal proceedings.
Collage of projectMultispectral drone, LiDAR data and physical habitat survey for carbon holding potential and habitat status for a remote UK estuary location. A long trip to a remote location, and the opportunity to stand in the middle of a large UK estuary with not a sole in site bar the survey team. The data captured were processed, analysed and combined with survey results from the habitat study and sediment samples taken during the same field visit.
Collage of projectOptions for enhancing marine biodiversity through habitat restoration and enhancement for a Mediterranean nation. Included review of studies and literature and examining anthropogenic impacts on Mediterranean Sea from pollution, lack of native species and habitat loss. A site visit and survey from the seaward side. Recommendations for habitat enhancement including sea defences, marine environmental improvement (pollution reduction) and possible habitat restoration and creation. Potential research areas and future student collaboration opportunities also recommended and highlighted.
Supporting the spatial data analysis and GIS data integration for the cable route and turbine base locations along the east coast of the USA, including potential obstructions and restictions to proposed route facility. Data included side scan sonar (SSS), multibeam echo sounder (MBES), backscatter, and magnetometry, as well as obstruction targets.

2020 - 2016

AQASS undertook a study for the International Maritime Organisation (UN) considering research into microplastic release from management, use and in-water cleaning of antifouling paints and marine coatings in general. The study identified pollutant sources, available research, and highlighted policies and recommendations from researchers in the field. Further to this, the study recommended areas where further work is required to establish the significance, or otherwise, of this microplastics source to marine ecosystems.
You can download the report from the IMO website.
IMO Newsletter Article screenshotAQASS undertook a desktop study considering the difficulties of environmentally and ecologically sound disposal of fibre re-inforced plastic boats.
Recognising the logistical difficulties of fibre re-inforced plastic boat disposal, the study is particularly interested in the problem and its impact in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). To understand the rationale behind the study, you can read an article published in the Winter 2017 edition of the IMO News (page 23).
You can download the report from the IMO website.
AQASS was sub-contracted to input into a World Bank study considering pollution sources in the Arabian Gulf. We provided technical expertise and assessment of research to inform future policy options regarding pollution management and feasibility studies plus financial resources required to upgrade sewage systems and desalination plant effects.
AQASS undertook an assessment of levels of contamination in Belfast harbour sediments, related ecological and environmental risks and potential sources. Data were assessed and mapped to indicate concentration gradients and to assist with the future of sediments and options to leave in place or to undertake planned dredging campaigns and options for management of the sediments in relation to ecological and environmental risk.
Pilivili, MozambiqueAQASS worked with MarineSpace Ltd providing specialist marine ecology and physical habitat assessment analysis and reporting for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) related to mining activity on the northern Mozambique coast. The project aimed to assess habitat status and vulnerability to enable future management of complex estuarine habitat and species against area needs.
AQASS considered the potential effects from the release of material into the sea for a major UK wide arts project. The work examined the material status, any related compounds and whether the levels of associated compounds to be released may have a deleterious effect on marine communities. We were pleased to work with the parent organisation who took an entirely responsible attitude towards the marine environment and complimented AQASS for informing their decisions on how to proceed with this important work. The responsible approach to the project reflected a growing institutional and public awareness of the marine environment and human effects on marine ecosystems.
River HambleAQASS provided support and ecological / environmental guidance to Lymington Technical Services for a novel approach to the beneficial use of dredge spoil for saltmarsh and intertidal mudflat habitat restoration in the River Hamble, Hampshire. In addition to habitat restoration, the enhancement of related ecosystem services (primarily passive coastal protection) is a potential outcome that is coupled with drives to enhance valuable intertidal habitat for feeding bird species and benthic and pelagic fauna.
DolphinAQASS undertook a desktop study for Fugro GB Marine considering the Persian Gulf, in the region of Iran, Qatar and Bahrain. This provided an environmental baseline of ecological assets and a broad ranging data review identifying data gaps and areas where data sharing may supplant knowledge shortages. The study highlighted regional and local human pressures on the marine environment and, with specific consideration of ecosystem services, recommended approaches to survey activities to ensure best practice and impact minimisation.
Sea TurtleAQASS provided support to Fugro GB Marine for an environmental / ecological study considering a remote offshore area of Papua New Guinea. A desktop review and data assessment was undertaken to highlight knowledge gaps in the region and to identify potential sensitivities and areas for more research. The study was used to guide refine a field survey and considered biotic and abiotic factors and relation of subsequent work in the region to provisioning and cultural ecosystem services.

Freshwater

2021 - 2023

Example Stats ChartsA long term and complex spatial and temporal data analysis project investigating water abstraction patterns and potential influences on water quality and fish migration patterns through a UK estuary into an internationally recognised river system. Assessment of temporal and spatial data sets and recording methods to ensure data continuity and to consider patterns of environmental change and possible implications.
River ColneThe project focussed on the design and permitting phase of four areas along the River Colne in North Watford, focussing on river and floodplain improvement opportunities. We assisted in project management and provision of technical advice, as well as topography and preliminary sediment surveys within and along the river corridor.
Assessment of sustainability and environmental benefit and potential implications for urban runoff and river / estuarine and coastal systems associated with proposed use of titanium oxide (TiO2) as catalyst in conversion of NOX to nitrates in urban systems. We undertook a review and made recommendations to a client considering adoption of titanium oxide products in relation to risk to aquatic ecosystems from direct runoff and from nitrate catalysis runoff. An interesting project that called for aquatic systems consideration, to social aspects in relation to sourcing titanium ore. See recent paper that has come out since the study.
GI mapsWe assisted GIC, working in partnership with Natural Resources Wales (NRW), in mapping opportunities for more greenery in Newport City Centre. Asset maps were generated from existing mapped data and remotely sensed imagery. The study demonstrated a variety of green infrastructure (GI) opportunities and nature-based solutions within the heart of the city that maximise the social, cultural, environmental and economic benefits in line with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the well-being goals.
GI mapsA departure from our marine / freshwater water based norm; undertaking spatial assessment of green infrastructure areas in Phnom Penh using remotely sensed satellite imagery (Sentinel-2). Imagery were classified using both the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which is an index for quantifying green vegetation and a measure of the state of vegetation health, and Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), which correct for soil background signals and atmospheric effects and especially useful in areas with dense canopy. Vegetation density area was calculated for both indeces as comparison. Data were being used to assess urban green space (UGS) and green infrastructure (GI) area as a baseline for future growth in GI. Not our usual field, but interesting and satisfying.
Trent bathy exampleThe study assessed the causes of erosion / scour at several sites along a section of the River Trent. As part of the work a strategic management plan was developed, including a programme of investigation to assist in the maintenance of the stretch of river, taking into account more nature-based, adaptive management options and solutions.

2020 - 2016

AQASS is providing Senior Environmental Consultant services to the HS2 Phase 2b project related to the checking and review of WFD compliance assessments and geomorphological reconnaissance surveys to waterbodies.
DNR at HeathrowThe proposal to create a third runway at Heathrow international airport is a project of national and international importance. The second major consultation phase to the general public runs from 18th June to 13th September.
AQASS were requested to provide expert ongoing input to help the Crane Valley Partnership (CVP), as a major consultee on water, environment and green infrastructure, prior and during the consultation phase, as well as represent the CVP at meetings with the Heathrow team.
Dr Ilse Steyl of AQASS has a background in water resources management, river and habitat restoration and social and natural capital assessment of river / freshwater resources using geospatial analysis. Ilse’s international experience in water resources management is a valuable asset to the CVP and her knowledge has provided value to proposal responses regarding management of freshwater courses potentially affected by the runway development.
Upper Duke of Northumberland's RiverThames Water are gathering data to embark on a set of projects / themes for “Smarter Water Catchments” to understand area needs and how working with key stakeholders can help build more effectively functioning river catchments. To assist in this process, a Natural Capital approach has been proposed for three pilot areas in which Thames Water are active, namely the Crane, Evenlode and Chess catchments. As part of the team, AQASS sees this as an exciting opportunity to engage in an integrated catchment management approach, working with Thames Water and other water managers in these catchments. An interactive web mapping application has been developed to visualise the baseline data gathered for this project.
Lower River CraneAQASS has been appointed to manage the feasibility and optioneering phase of the lower River Crane restoration / rehabilitation project in west London. This 3 km stretch of river at the bottom of the Crane catchment is an over-widened concrete channel, often hidden from view. The impacts of urbanisation on this stretch of river is very evident and has affected the physical structure, water quality, water quantity, geomorphology and its ability to support wildlife dramatically. This is a very ambitious project, that seeks to enhance a significant stretch of river in a very populated part of London and AQASS is pleased to be a team member at this stage of the scheme.
Malawi Water AbstractionAQASS supported EOH Coastal and Environmental Services in the technical review of an Environmental and Social Due Diligence study considering water resource and water quality management and abstraction plans for a mixed agricultural business in Malawi. The review considered the sustainability of water efficiency proposals and suggested modifications and enhancement to data presentation to further ensure the sustainability of planned abstraction, particularly in relation to important wetlands and associated ecological communities.

Research

Digital Surface ModelAQASS received a grant from the Natural Environment Group (NEG) of the Solent Forum to investigate the efficacy of passive sediment retention on a small scale saltmarsh restoration project along the River Hamble in 2020. Due to Covid19 restrictions, the project was delayed until 2021. The project included the installation of coir roll structures and using UAV technology to undertake monitoring over the course of 22 months.
AQASS partnered with SANDGeophysics, who assisted with the drone imagery capture. AQASS analysed the imagery using ArcGIS Pro. A report with the results of the research project and future work planned, is available for those interested.
ESRI Partnership research projects investigating GIS systems and remote data for environmental management of shipping and port risks, near coastal and estuarine water quality, habitat restoration and carbon sequestration.

For the Hong Kong Research Council and the National University of Singapore, AQASS undertakes academic research grant reviews considering marine ecological and pollution aspects. To date these have comprised:

  • 2020 - Wetland microplastics and associated toxins, effect on fish species and gut biota.
  • 2020 - Endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins and trans-generational effects using zebra fish as biomarkers.
  • 2020 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Marine Heatwaves in South-east Asia: unveiling zooplankton effects of extreme events in coastal waters
  • 2020 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Synergies between microplastics degradation and ocean acidification, biological effects on marine species
  • 2019 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Man-made intertidal habitats on the mainland Chinese coast and differential colonisation of intertidal species related to thermal change and global warming.
  • 2019 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Microplastics pollution, Interactions with PAHs in mangrove wetlands
  • 2019 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Meta-organisms: the adaptive role of host-microbiome interactions in warming oceans;
  • 2019 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Crabs as early warning sentinels of ecological degradation in mangroves? A case study on heavy metal pollution in Hong Kong mangroves;
  • 2019 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Thermal physiological plasticity in a marine ectotherm across its geographic distribution;
  • 2019 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Mangrove carbon export and utilisation by intertidal / subtidal species;
  • 2018 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Review of the future of a keystone grazer: physiological and nutritional responses of an urchin to ocean warming across its geographical range;
  • 2018 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Review of the assessment of carbon detritus chain and macrofauna in mangrove communities;
  • 2018 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Review of spatial and temporal plasticity and genetic potential in tropical marine organisms influenced by temperature and pH change;
  • 2017 - National University of Singapore: Review of novel bio-inspired antifoul approach proposal, ecological risks, toxicity and sustainably;
  • 2017 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Review of phytoplankton bloom derived toxic compounds proposal, and genetic effects on marine community in Hong Kong Harbour;
  • 2017 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Review of long-term data set and temporal and spatial community change from human disturbance gradient proposal.
  • 2017 - Research Grants Council Hong Kong: Review of plant protein uptake of nitrates and potential to manage aquatic nutrient excess
  • AQASS co-supervises a PhD at Portsmouth University considering non-native species and related community function.
  • AQASS team member, Dr Simon Bray, has previously co-supervised two PhDs at the University of Southampton considering (i) the potential biodiversity benefits of porous coastal defence structures and (ii) intertidal mudflat and saltmarsh conservation in the Solent, UK.
  • Water management for habitats and humans;
  • Team developing papers in multi-criteria analysis for prioritisation of beneficial dredge spoil use for habitat restoration;
  • Using interactive mapping to improve project data delivery;
  • Chronic and acute marine pollution management;
  • Antifoul effects and sustainable approaches;
  • Habitat restoration and creation, coastal structures, benthic communities.