Impacts of changing society and climate on nutrient loading to the Baltic Sea

Sampo Pihlainen, Marianne Zandersen, Kari Hyytiäinen, Hans Estrup Andersen, Alena Bartosova, Bo Gustafsson, Mohamed Jabloun, Michelle McCrackin, H.E. Markus Meier, Jørgen E. Olesen, Sofia Saraiva, Dennis Swaney, Hans Thodsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper studies the relative importance of societal drivers and changing climate on anthropogenic nutrient inputs to the Baltic Sea. Shared Socioeconomic Pathways and Representative Concentration Pathways are extended at temporal and spatial scales relevant for the most contributing sectors. Extended socioeconomic and climate scenarios are then used as inputs for spatially and temporally detailed models for population and land use change, and their subsequent impact on nutrient loading is computed. According to the model simulations, several factors of varying influence may either increase or decrease total nutrient loads. In general, societal drivers outweigh the impacts of changing climate. Food demand is the most impactful driver, strongly affecting land use and nutrient loads from agricultural lands in the long run. In order to reach the good environmental status of the Baltic Sea, additional nutrient abatement efforts should focus on phosphorus rather than nitrogen. Agriculture is the most important sector to be addressed under the conditions of gradually increasing precipitation in the region and increasing global demand for food. (C) 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Article number138935
JournalThe Science of the Total Environment
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • Agriculture
  • Climate adaptation
  • Eutrophication
  • Integrated modelling
  • Long-term projections
  • Wastewater treatment
  • 1172 Environmental sciences

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