Climate change threatens marine environment in the Baltic Sea

Oct 22, 2012

At the end of the 21st century, the temperature in the Baltic Sea will be higher and the salt content lower than at any time since 1850. If no action is taken to alleviate the effects of climate change, there may be major consequences for the marine environment.

"This is the first time that anyone has taken a detailed look at how climate models and individual factors combine to affect a specific region. This makes this project unique," says Jonathan Havenhand from the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

A large number of researchers from countries around the have been collaborating on an interdisciplinary project to study the effects of on the environment in the Baltic Sea. They have combined today's best with models of additional factors that affect the environment in the Baltic Sea.

"There are plenty of studies showing the of individual factors, or models showing global changes in the climate, but this is the first time that anyone has taken a detailed look at how these factors combine to affect a specific region. This makes this project unique," says Jonathan Havenhand from the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Gothenburg.

Researchers have studied how well the models work by entering data from 1850 until 2006, and then comparing the models' predictions with what actually happened during that period.

The models proved to be reasonably accurate, and were therefore used to predict what will happen in the Baltic Sea between now and 2098. The models show that the salt content in the Baltic Sea will fall and that the temperature will rise as a consequence of increases in and precipitation.

The increase in temperature will cause the oxygen content of the water to fall, making the effects of eutrophication more pronounced. The change in salt content may result in species that are currently at the edge of their dispersion area disappearing, leading to a decline in the diversity of species.

"One such example is the blue mussel, which cannot survive if the salt content is lower than it is at present in the Northern Baltic Sea. It feeds on algae and purifies large volumes of water. This makes it an important species. We can also expect cod stocks to fall, even if we restrict fishing, as the , temperature and will change so much that reproduction will become difficult," says Jonathan Havenhand.

In their study, the researchers showed that despite these changes it may be possible to counteract the effects of global climate change on the environment in the Baltic Sea, for example by reducing the run-off of nutrients from land. One special feature of the study is that it quantifies the effects of such measures.

"We aren't making any judgement about what should be done, we're simply providing a tool to allow decision-makers to assess what needs to be done in order to achieve a given desired effect," says Jonathan Havenhand.

But according to a questionnaire-based survey conducted among decision-makers in the countries around the Baltic Sea, those in power would prefer to wait. The results showed that while they might view climate change as a problem, it is perceived to be something relatively remote in terms of time.

This led researchers to the conclusion that more information is needed about the importance and urgency of measures to counteract the .

The results of the study will contribute to the Helsinki Commission's (HELCOM) proposed action plan for the Baltic Sea.

Explore further: Mining can damage fish habitats far downstream, study shows

More information: The results were published recently in Environmental Research Letters (Meier et al. Environ Res Lett. 7 (2012).

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Warmer climate makes Baltic more salty

Jun 01, 2010

Science has long believed that a warmer climate will increase river runoff to the Baltic Sea, thus making the inland sea less salty. However, a new extensive study from the University of Gothenburg reveals that the effect ...

Rapid changes in the winter climate

Aug 14, 2009

The Baltic Sea winter climate has changed more in the last 500 years than previously thought. Research at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that our part of the world has experienced periods of both ...

Shipworm threatens archaeological treasures

Jan 11, 2010

The dreaded shipworm is moving into the Baltic Sea, threatening artefacts of the area's cultural heritage. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, suspect that the unfortunate spread is due to ...

Recommended for you

Tool kit for ocean health

30 minutes ago

The ocean is undergoing global changes at a remarkable pace and we must change with it to attain our best possible future ocean, warns the head of The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute.

Researcher studies interactions between land and water

50 minutes ago

Early one morning last January, MIT undergraduate Theresa Oehmke was eating breakfast at the Kilauea Military Camp on Hawaii's Big Island when a colleague burst into the room, yelling, "Oh my god, the plume, ...

Geoengineering our climate is not a 'quick fix'

2 hours ago

The deliberate, large-scale intervention in the Earth's climate system is not a "quick fix" for global warming, according to the findings of the UK's first publicly funded studies on geoengineering.

US to propose stricter smog standard

4 hours ago

Coming full circle on a campaign promise, the Obama administration will propose Wednesday to reduce the amount of smog-forming pollution allowed in the air, which has been linked to asthma, lung damage and ...

Sao Paulo drought issue for global concern

4 hours ago

He cast his rod happily here for 30 years—but where a river once teemed with fish, Brazilian fisherman Ernane da Silva these days stares out over a valley of weeds and bone dry, sun-parched land.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mememine69
1.5 / 5 (8) Oct 22, 2012
Get up to date:
*In all of the debates so far, Obama hasn't planned to mention climate change once.
*Obama has not mentioned the crisis in the last two State of the Unions addresses.
*Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets run by corporations.
*Julian Assange is of course a climate change denier.
*Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).
Want to lose an election for sure? Then just keep threatening the voter's kids with CO2 deaths.
MikPetter
5 / 5 (1) Oct 22, 2012
This is a useful study that highlights to difficulties of climate change response strategies. Even with compelling measurements of change and specific recommendations of response measures, decision makers still prefer to wait rather than act. The Helsinki Commission needs to adopt some no regrets measures on nutrient reduction for multiple benefits including resilience to climate change.
Howhot
5 / 5 (3) Oct 22, 2012
*In all of the debates so far, Obama hasn't planned to mention climate change once.

Does that matter? It's obvious which party is addressing climate change (the Democrats) and which party is not!
Enviro Equipment Blog
not rated yet Oct 23, 2012
"…the temperature in the Baltic Sea will be higher and the salt content lower than at any time since 1850"

This piece of information through me for loop because I've always heard that global warming has made the Earth's oceans warmer then they have been in hundreds if not tens of thousands of years. Was there a "mini warm-up" back in the middle part of the 19th century?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.