Scenarios for future lifestyles within the Baltic Sea Drainage BasinThe combination of future changes in climate and lifestyle has great potential to alter future nutrient loads to the Baltic Sea, thus leading to additional stresses for an ecosystem already under pressure by e.g. eutrophication.
In this study, the researchers explored a range of scenarios of future climate and projections of future lifestyles within the Baltic Sea Drainage Basin (BSDB) using dynamic modelling.
Total nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) were estimated using as 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.
Lifestyle changes more important than climate effects on future nutrient runoff
All climate scenarios considered 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 Baltic Sea Drainage Basin, 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.