Midterm results

Anthropogenic pressures and impacts to aquatic ecosystems – Midterm results of BlueAdapt work package 1


Response to research targets so far

Work Package 1 studies the impacts of key socio-economic drivers and climate change on industry, food production, nutrient loading and the status of inland and coastal aquatic environments.  The resilience and capacity for adaptation in aquatic environments are evaluated at relevant spatiotemporal scales.

The main objective is to provide environmental norms and guidance for environmental and socio-economic policies, legislation and administration as well as to broaden the scientific knowledge and understanding of aquatic ecosystem change. These results will guide adaptation of blue economy to the changing climate and socio-economic environment and transition to environmentally sustainable and responsible business. This in turn, will improve and safeguard the good ecological status of surface waters in the long run.

Photo: Riku Lumiaro
Photo: Riku Lumiaro, SYKE
Analysis of shared socio-economic pathways (SSP) and climate change (CC) scenarios in agriculture and tourism

Shared socio-economic pathway (SSP) scenarios are applied on agriculture and the tourism industry to analyze projected impacts on nutrient loading and water quality. Tourism is one of the biggest and most rapidly growing economic sectors of blue economy. According to our case study, there are opportunities to increase blue tourism in the Helsinki region (tourism services that make use of aquatic environment or are dependent on lakes, the sea or rivers). However, uncontrolled expansion of tourism infrastructure (e.g. new buildings or transport routes on coastal areas) may have negative impacts on the quality of aquatic environments. If aquatic ecosystems degrade it could eventually lead to a negative feedback on the tourism industry.

The team of researchers and stakeholders have formulated policy-recommendations based on regionally extended global SSP scenarios, visions and transition pathways co-created by. They have processed the new set of RCP-based (Representative Concentration Pathways) regional climate scenarios from the Euro-Cordex data (euro-cordex.net) base. They took them also into use in the modeling of discharges and nutrient loading.

Modelling of nutrient loading from agriculture and impacts on aquatic ecosystems (inland and coastal)

We developed process-based and data-driven models to predict water quality and eutrophication responses of aquatic ecosystems under various nutrient loading and climate change scenarios. We assess resilience and adaptation of inland and coastal aquatic ecosystems based on modelling results. In the high greenhouse gas emission scenario RCP 8.5 annual runoff will probably increase and in low greenhouse gas emission scenario RCP 2.6 annual runoff may decrease at least in southeastern Finland (by year 2100). There will be considerable seasonal shift in runoff distribution due to the shortening of snow cover period. The agricultural actions on the farm level in SSP scenarios change runoff and nutrient balance in the soils. Here, we considered fertilization, plant uptake, N, P mineralization, N denitrification, N, P transport and leaching. We expect that nutrient loading will have highest increase in SSP2 scenario called ‘middle of the road’. This is due to increase in yield and fertilizer input, low taxation of nutrient leaching, stable prices of fertilizer.

We detected remarkable change in phytoplankton community structure, biodiversity and ecosystem functions in over 850 lakes since the 1970s. We estimated also phosphorus thresholds for bloom-forming cyanobacterial taxa. These findings help us to predict changes under different management scenarios and climate projections and to set up robust phosphorus reduction targets of coastal and inland water ecosystems.

Analysis of resilience and adaptation of aquatic ecosystems

We analyzed monitoring records from intensively observed lakes and revealed remarkable change in hydrology, water quality and phytoplankton species composition in the past five decades. The resilience of lake ecosystem functions and biodiversity are eroding due to climate and socio-economic change. We search and evaluated new technical, administrative and socio-economic innovations for nutrient compensation to adapt a new generation bioproduct mill in Kuopio and fish farming in Archipelago Sea.

Photo: Pirjo Ferin
Photo: Pirjo Ferin, SYKE
Application of adaptive approaches and Bayesian techniques

We used integrated hydrological and ecological models and adaptive monitoring and modeling frameworks to aid in management and decision making. We identified opportunities, solutions and contingency plans for blue economy in the wake of global change. As a result, we can optimally support social learning and evidence-based management of waters in the AGORA framework.


Way forward

During the period of the next three years, we will use ecological and biogeochemical models to predict aquatic ecosystems responses to climate and environmental change.

In 2020-2023, we’ll model the future nutrient loading from agriculture and harmful algae blooms under climate change and shared socio-economic pathway scenarios and policy options. A set of policy options, recommendations, environmental norms, transition pathways and management measures will be set up and evaluated in a multidisciplinary dialogue together with other work packages and stakeholders.

We’ll estimate the optimal fertilizer (P and N) use at the farm and catchment levels and study biogas production, transport of the processed manure to remote fields with lower P content. We’ll consider also other adaptation measures such as use of gypsum, vegetation cover over the winter.

We’ll study ecological outcomes of current and future environmental and economic policies in coastal and inland waters and provide guidance for blue economy sectors to flourish and adapt to changing climate and operational environmental.

We’ll clarify the role of natural scientific knowledge – defined here as the models and scenarios – in adaptive water management and governance. We’ll identify knowledge gaps and major challenges in the communication between disciplines.


Contact persons:

Professor Otso Ovaskainen, University of Helsinki, otso.ovakainen@helsinki.fi

Professor Kari Hyytiäinen, University of Helsinki, kari.hyytiainen@helsinki.fi

Leading Researcher Olli Malve, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, olli.malve@ymparisto.fi

Researcher Niina Kotamäki, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, niina.kotamaki@ymparisto.fi