Seminar: The Baltic Sea as time machine for the global coastal ocean

  • Speaker: Thorsten Reusch, GEOMAR Kiel







Esporles, October 8, 2018. Coastlines are critical zones where the human sphere of influence meets the ocean. Not surprisingly, these marine areas have undergone some of the most dramatic ecosystem changes in the past century, and pressures on coastal ecosystems continue to increase worldwide.


Yet, management actions and governance regimes are mostly insufficient to meet the sustainability challenges of ecosystem threats in many sensitive regions, such as estuaries, enclosed seas, upwelling areas or coral-based ecosystems.


The United Nations recently acknowledged the urgent need to protect the ecological integrity of marine waters with the new sustainable development goal SDG14.


But how do we best manage coastal ecosystems, the ocean areas most affected by human activity?


We here argue that the Baltic Sea region (BSR) is a time machine to preview the causes and consequences of major environmental perturbations and to examine the efficacy of different management actions that started historically early.


Already today, many anthropogenic pressures in the BSR have reached levels predicted in other coastal regions for the future. Consequences included fish stock collapses, increased toxic algal blooms and the expansion of oxygen-minimum zones.


Since the BSR has been intensely studied since the early 1900s, it lends itself to analyze failures and successes of science-based management. The return of top-predators, recovering fish stocks, and reduced input of nutrient and harmful substances are encouraging successes underscoring the potential for sustainable management of coastal systems under heavy pressures.


The inertia of Baltic ecosystem to react to management actions, for example the time until nutrients are no longer accessible to producers, illustrates the importance of implementing management schemes long before pressures are peaking.


The increasing impact of global climate change underscores that future sustainable management needs to be more conservative or more efficient to compensate adverse global trends.


The BSR Time Machine demonstrates that new management strategies are needed when significant economic trade-offs come into play. Further development of multi-national governance regimes, a decision framework including major stakeholders, and the integrated management of watershed and sea are important future steps to keep the BSR management ahead of time.





Date and Time: Wednesday, October 10, 10:30h

Place: IMEDEA Seminar Room