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Future Nutrient Load Scenarios for the Baltic Sea Due to Climate and Lifestyle Changes

Hägg, Hanna Eriksson, Lyon, Steve W., Wällstedt, Teresia, Mörth, Carl-Magnus, Claremar, Björn, Humborg, Christoph
Ambio 2014 v.43 no.3 pp. 337-351
climate, climate change, human population, lifestyle, nitrogen content, nutrient transport, phosphorus, pollution load, runoff, simulation models, watersheds, Baltic Sea
Dynamic model simulations of the future climate and projections of future lifestyles within the Baltic Sea Drainage Basin (BSDB) were considered in this study to estimate potential trends in future nutrient loads to the Baltic Sea. Total nitrogen and total phosphorus loads were estimated using a simple proxy based only on human population (to account for nutrient sources) and stream discharges (to account for nutrient transport). This population-discharge proxy provided a good estimate for nutrient loads across the seven sub-basins of the BSDB considered. All climate scenarios considered here produced increased nutrient loads to the Baltic Sea over the next 100 years. There was variation between the climate scenarios such that sub-basin and regional differences were seen in future nutrient runoff depending on the climate model and scenario considered. Regardless, the results of this study indicate that changes in lifestyle brought about through shifts in consumption and population potentially overshadow the climate effects on future nutrient runoff for the entire BSDB. Regionally, however, lifestyle changes appear relatively more important in the southern regions of the BSDB while climatic changes appear more important in the northern regions with regards to future increases in nutrient loads. From a whole-ecosystem management perspective of the BSDB, this implies that implementation of improved and targeted management practices can still bring about improved conditions in the Baltic Sea in the face of a warmer and wetter future climate.