Nørrefjord. Photo: Line Reeh

Coastal ecology

DTU Aqua’s research into coastal ecology deals with the structure and function of coastal ecosystems and habitats, primarily in relation to fish and shellfish but also in relation to coastal zone management.

Main themes within coastal ecology research

The research into coastal ecology has four major themes:

  • Function of coastal ecosystems
    The coastal ecology group performs research in coastal ecosystems with focus on effect of multiple stressors and in particular physical disturbance in ecosystems already disturbed by anthropogenic pressure, e.g. eutrophication. We also perform research into the stability and resilience of coastal systems in relation to climate change and other human influences, e.g. fisheries and invasive species. 

  • Habitat sustainability stability and restoration 
    We conduct research into the structure and function of coastal habitats with focus on their importance to fish and shellfish and also study impact on coastal habitats of the production of shellfish and seaweed, both as fishery on wild species as well as different forms of aquaculture. Habitat restoration in marine areas is a new field of research. Using its knowledge of ecosystems as a platform, DTU Aqua develops methods for re-establishing cavernous boulder reefs and mussel beds. Furthermore, juvenile marine fish are released and monitored with the aim to enhance local stocks.

  • Mitigating effects of eutrophication
    The coastal ecology group is actively engaged in research in marine mitigation tools aimed at reducing effects of eutrophication, e.g. farming of mussels or seaweed or reestablishing of stone reefs and eelgrass beds.

  • Integrated coastal zone management 
    Coastal areas are used for many commercial and recreational purposes. DTU Aqua conducts research into how advanced management models and tools may support sustainable exploitation of coastal areas, including models that integrate biological and socio-economic knowledge in a holistic management approach.

Why do we do research into coastal ecology?

Denmark’s coastline totals 7,300 km and the coastal areas serve an important function as nature areas, commercially and recreationally. It is thus important to conduct research into the effect of human impact and climate change on coastal ecosystems.

Danish coastal areas are generally highly eutrophic and are thus suited for mussels and other benthic suspension-feeders despite low tidal advection. Mussel fishery is an important fishery in many coastal areas and long-line farming is a new area of production.

Shallow coastal areas function as feeding grounds for many fish and are an important habitat for juvenile fish. The areas thus support valuable commercial and recreational fishing. Coastal nature areas have been subjected to many years of destruction which has made it necessary to restore the functionality of these areas. DTU Aqua works to develop methods for restoring fish habitats and management tools that integrate nature conservation, commercial opportunities and the extensive recreational potential of coastal areas.

Coastal areas differ from open waters in several ways and thus constitute an independent field of research at DTU Aqua. Coastal waters are shallow, and the impact from human activity is more visible here than in the open sea. Furthermore, climate change will be particularly noticeable in coastal areas where an increased local inflow of fresh water will impact environmental parameters. In addition, shallow coastal waters are heated more quickly by increasing air temperatures.

Coastal areas are characterized by involving diverse interestsboth commercial and recreational and in relation to nature conservation. Consequently, the management of coastal areas often involves a wider range of stakeholders than that seen in the management of other marine areas. 

What is the research used for?

The results of DTU Aqua’s coastal ecology research are used in particular for providing advice to management at different levels e.g. the EU, the Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, municipalities etc. 

The advice provided to the authorities involves e.g. mussel fisheries impact assessment and development of methods for restoring or managing coastal areas. DTU Aqua provides knowledge about the importance of coastal areas as fish and shellfish habitats and the significance of environmental impacts for these habitats.  

DTU Aqua’s researchers collaborate closely with many different fisheries organisations, including recreational fishing, on several projects. 




The research into coastal ecology has access to facilities on land at Danish Shellfish Centre and in the Limfjorden.

Learn more about the research facilities


Jens Kjerulf Petersen
Ph.+45 61 22 24 29