Protecting the Baltic Sea is not up to us alone – Climate change and societal developments also have an impact

Technological advances in energy production and urbanisation expedite the attainment of the current environmental objectives for the Baltic Sea. On the other hand, an increase in the demand for animal protein would complicate the efforts for making the region healthier. Reconciling goals related to food production and marine environments with each other poses great challenges for the future.

The Baltic Sea is an ecosystem sensitive to disruption. A changing climate, contaminants and the exploitation of natural resources affect the functioning and structure of the Baltic Sea’s marine ecosystem.

Rising temperatures are predicted to worsen the preconditions for agriculture in many regions of the world currently heavily focused on food production. This may lead to increased fishing and agricultural activities in the Baltic Sea region.

“The first concern for current and future decision-makers is how to reconcile goals related to food production and marine environments with each other. Protecting the Baltic Sea is not up to us alone, since the scale of the challenges is affected by climate change and global societal developments,” says Kari Hyytiäinen, a professor at the University of Helsinki.

Climate change is predicted to increase nutrient washout in catchment areas.

“This will make the prevention of eutrophication and the achievement of the joint environmental goals described in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan increasingly difficult.”

Global changes in populations and consumer habits are factors significant to the status of the marine environment, potentially surpassing the importance of climate change itself.
For instance, a step towards a healthier diet would significantly reduce the stress caused by nutrients and promote the goal of making the sea healthy in the long term,” notes Hyytiäinen.

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The BONUS BALTICAPP research project (2015–2018) is part of the BONUS research programme (Art. 185). The project’s final summary is available here.

 

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