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Is there so much phosphorous coming from Baltic Sea sediments that taking action on land is useless?

Time: 10:40-12:00 Wednesday 9 November

Venue: Lindgrenrummet

Internal phosphorus load is a consequence of eutrophication, not a cause. We can do more on land. The internal load of phosphorous (P) is a hot topic for debate. Some say that the amount of P in the Baltic Sea sediments is so large that we can stop all other actions reducing losses from agriculture and sewage. Others argue that internal load is a result of, and not a cause of, eutrophication. 

Whether or not agriculture has done enough to reduce leakage of nutrients has been a hot topic for debate in most Baltic Sea countries. Nobody really questions the fact that the environmental status of the Baltic Sea is extremely poor. But with poor economic conditions for most agricultural sectors, it is not clear how farmers will cope with additional environmental restrictions. Is it really worthwhile to further reduce nutrient losses from land when there is already so much phosphorous in the sea?  
 
The flux of phosphorus from the sediments to the water column under low oxygen conditions is often called the internal load (compared to the external load that comes from land). The internal load is not a new source of phosphorus, but is a consequence of eutrophication and past practices in farming and sewage treatment. The internal load of phosphorus will slow recovery of the Baltic Sea, most likely by a number of decades. In the debate one often hears that the internal load is so large that reducing phosphorus losses from agriculture and other sectors will not improve the sea’s condition any time soon. Others argue that phosphorus is not managed as efficiently as it could be around the Baltic Sea; therefore, to protect not only the Baltic Sea, but inland lakes and streams as well, we must do more to reduce phosphorus leakage from land.
 
Several geo-engineering solutions have been proposed to restore the Baltic Sea by decreasing the leakiness of the phosphorus from sediments: removing phosphorus-rich sediments, adding chemicals to bind and keep phosphorus in the sediments, and pumping oxygenated water down to deep, oxygen-poor waters. Despite all the research that has been done, there are still large uncertainties regarding phosphorus in sediments. Is there enough knowledge to guide decision makers? How will the decision makers know what actions to take? Are there questions that need to be answered?
 
In this seminar, you will get an overview of topics relevant for decision makers and learn more about the latest scientific research. The format is: short, introductory presentations by scientists followed by a Q & A session where decision makers will ask scientists questions in order to get guidance needed to make the right policy decisions.

Speakers:
  • Alf Norkko, Professor, Tvärminne Zoological Station, Helsinki University
  • Bo Gustafsson, Director, Baltic Nest Institute and Senior Scientist at Baltic Sea Centre, Stockholm University
  • Michelle McCrackin, Research Scientist at Baltic Eye at the Stockholm University Baltic Sea Center
 
Panel discussion where politicians will get a chance to ask the experts for advice.
Politicians
  • Matilda Ernkrans, Social Democratic Party, Member of the Swedish Parliament, Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Agriculture (tbc)
  • Saara-Sofia Sirén, member of Finnish Parliament and Environment Committee
  • Rainer Vakra, Social Democratic Party Faction, Chair of the Environmental Committee of the Parliament of Estonia
Experts:
  • Alf Norkko, Professor, Tvärminne Zoological Station, Helsinki University
  • Bo Gustafsson, Director Baltic Nest Institute and Senior Scientist at Baltic Sea Centre, Stockholm University
  • Annika Svanbäck, PhD in Soil Science, Research Scientist at Baltic Eye at the Baltic Sea Centre, Stockholm University
  • Michelle McCrackin, Research Scientist at Baltic Eye at the Baltic Sea Centre, Stockholm University
Moderator:
Gun Rudquist, Analysis and Advocacy Officer at Baltic Eye at the Baltic Sea Centre, Stockholm University

Political seminar
 
Main organiser:
Baltic Eye at the Stockholm University Baltic Sea Center

Who we are
Baltic Eye, part of the Baltic Sea Centre at Stockholm University, is made up of a team of scientists, policy and communication experts who analyse and synthesise scientific research on the Baltic Sea and communicates it to stakeholders in decision-making processes. The realm of work is transdisciplinary and covers the broad areas of science important for Baltic Sea management. It focuses on four themes: eutrophication, sustainable fisheries, environmental pollutants and management of marine habitats and protected areas.

Seminar contact person:
Gun Rudquist

Sub-objective of the EUSBSR:
Save the Sea: Clear water in the sea
Increase prosperity: EUSBSR contributing to the implementation of Europe 2020