Effects of land use, urbanization, and climate variability on coastal eutrophication in the Baltic Sea

Savage, Candida, Peter R. Leavitt, and Ragnar Elmgren

Limnol. Oceanogr., 55(3), 2010, 1033-1046 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2010.55.3.1033

ABSTRACT: Sedimentary records of organic matter inputs (stable nitrogen isotopes [δ15N], nitrogen [N], and carbon [C] content), phytoplankton abundance (pigments, stable carbon isotopes [δ13C]), and community composition (pigments) were used to reconstruct the history and pathway to water-quality degradation in a Swedish Baltic coastal bay. Changes in nutrient sources and cycling began in the 1800s, but eutrophication intensified only after the 1950s, coincident with intensified agricultural practices. Specifically, sedimentary N and C content doubled, δ13C increased, and concentrations of pigments indicative of total algal biomass (b-carotene, chlorophyll a), diatoms (fucoxanthin, diatoxanthin), chlorophytes (lutein-zeaxanthin, Chlorophyll b), and cyanobacteria (canthaxanthin) increased significantly after 1950. Enhanced algal abundance was most strongly related to total N influx and secondly to total P influx. In particular, historical change in algae was related to agricultural N influx and only weakly to agricultural P. In recent decades, wastewater N influx has further stimulated algal biomass, particularly diatoms. In contrast, colonial cyanobacteria were more correlated to total P than total N inputs. Variance-partitioning analysis explained 60% of the changes in algal abundance and community composition since 1880, with diffuse and point nutrients jointly explaining 36% of the long-term change in algal biomass. Climate variability has become more important as a factor influencing coastal eutrophication in recent decades, explaining 14% of the variance in the algal data since 1975. Both urban and agricultural sources of nutrients have degraded water quality, illustrating the need for cooperation between stakeholders at regional levels to achieve "good ecological status" in the Baltic coastal environment.

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