Future socioeconomic conditions may have a larger impact than climate change on nutrient loads to the Baltic Sea

Authors: Alena Bartosova, René Capell, Jørgen E. Olesen, Mohamed Jabloun, Jens Christian Refsgaard, Chantal Donnelly, Kari Hyytiäinen, Sampo Pihlainen, Marianne Zandersen and Berit Arheimer.

Type of publication: Article peer review

The Baltic Sea is suffering from eutrophication caused by nutrient discharges from land to sea, and these loads might change in a changing climate. We show that the impact from climate change by mid-century is probably less than the direct impact of changing socioeconomic factors such as land use, agricultural practices, atmospheric deposition, and wastewater emissions. We compare results from dynamic modelling of nutrient loads to the Baltic Sea under projections of climate change and scenarios for shared socioeconomic pathways. Average nutrient loads are projected to increase by 8% and 14% for nitrogen and phosphorus, respectively, in response to climate change scenarios. In contrast, changes in the socioeconomic drivers can lead to a decrease of 13% and 6% or an increase of 11% and 9% in nitrogen and phosphorus loads, respectively, depending on the pathway. This indicates that policy decisions still play a major role in climate adaptation and in managing eutrophication in the Baltic Sea region.

Bartosova, A., Capell, R., Olesen, J.E. et al. Ambio (2019) 48: 1325.
DOI 10.1007/s13280-019-01243-5