Embed or link this publication


BEAM research in short - fall 2014

Popular Pages

p. 1

Baltic Ecosystem Adaptive Management Research for sustainable management of the Baltic Sea 1


p. 2

Baltic Ecosystem Adaptive Management, BEAM, is an interdisciplinary research program on ecosystem-based management of the Baltic Sea environment. The program gathers researchers from three Faculties and ten Departments to focus on five key areas and their interactions: ecosystem functioning, nutrient enrichment, hazardous substances, laws and management and climate change. This is a mini-report about BEAM and the latest results from ten of the projects it supports. 1000 copies printed in November 2014. Please visit for more information and news. Task force - a coordinating team In order to enhance interaction and collaboration within BEAM a task force team was established and led by the Network coordinator Thorsten Blenckner. It consists of communicators and scientists from the key areas: – Laws and management: Henrik Österblom, Stockholm Resilience Centre – Hazardous substances: Johan Eriksson, Dept. of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences – Ecosystem functioning and nutrient enrichment: Johan Gelting, Dept. of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences Program Coordinator: Ragnar Elmgren,, 08-16 40 16. Network Coordinator: Thorsten Blenckner,, 08-674 76 69. Editors: Nastassja Åstrand Capetillo,, 08-16 17 42, and Marie Löf, Photos and illustrations by page number 1: H. Larsson/Azote. 3: T. Svensson/Azote. 4: N. Wijkmark/Azote. 6-8: Tina Elfwing: L. Burell, Carl Folke: M. Axellson/Azote, Michael McLachlan: E. Dalin/SU, Lena Kautsky: R. Kautsky, Christoph Humborg: E. Dalin/SU, Jonas Ebbesson: E. Dalin/SU. 9: A. Quin. 12: N. Wijkmark/Azote. 13: S. Bonaglia. 14: J. Hansen. 15: M. Almqvist/Azote. 16: A. Maslennikov/Azote and J. Lokrantz/Azote. 17: M. Löf. 18: T. Dahlin/Azote. 20: M. Almqvist/Azote. 21: F. Fransner. 22: G. Aneer/Azote. 23: B. Carreno/Azote. 24: J. Hansen. 25: T. H. Snickars/Azote. 26: G. Aneer/ Azote. 27: T. Holm/Azote. 28: M. Almqvist/Azote. 29: C. Bradshaw. 2


p. 3

Baltic Ecosystem Adaptive Management, BEAM – Research for sustainable management of the Baltic Sea Many years of environmental research have given us improved knowledge of how eutrophication, environmental toxins and climate change affect the sea. We are also starting to understand their interactions, including those with complex human social systems. By integrating knowledge from different disciplines, BEAM helps to create a better basis for sustainable management of the Baltic Sea. Holistic approach needed for the Baltic Sea The 85 million people living in the Baltic Sea catchment exert a strong pressure on the Baltic Sea ecosystem. The future of this unique sea largely depends on how we choose to take care of it. Baltic Ecosystem Adaptive Management, beam, is a strategic research program funded by the Swedish government, and part of Stockholm University’s major research initiative on the Baltic Sea. Aim BEAM aims at developing a multidiscplinary scientific understanding of the Baltic Sea and its management and to provide strategic advice to practitioners and policy makers in order to make an ecosystem-based management operational. 3


p. 4

beam aims to provide the knowledge needed for ecosystem-based management of the Baltic Sea environment. – The Baltic Sea needs an environmental management based on the demands of its ecosystems. Since its environmental problems are interwoven they need to be treated together, not in isolation. Measures to mitigate eutrophication affect fish populations, while overfishing influences the levels of environmental toxins in fish and maybe even the severity of algal blooms, says Ragnar Elmgren, beam program coordinator and Professor at the Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences at Stockholm University. Collaboration is key Stockholm University is a leader in Baltic Sea research, particularly concerning ecosystems, organic environmental toxins, natural resource management and the use of ecological models for decision support. The University also has environmental lawyers, social scientist and other experts on ecosystem-based management. – Coordinating existing projects and different disciplines in a single program, strengthens the research and provides a better basis for political decisions, directives and environmental goals, says Thorsten Blenckner, beam network coordinator and Associate Professor at Stockholm Resilience Centre. 4 Funding The BEAM project started in 2010 and will be financed to the end of 2015. A positive evaluation in 2015 will make this strategic financing permanent. For the period 2010–2014, BEAM has received 41.9 Mkr in strategic funding from the Swedish government, 47 Mkr from external sponsors and approximately 50 Mkr from Stockholm University.


p. 5

Words used in the titles of BEAM publications since 2010. BEAM outcomes BEAM programme results are published at an increasing rate – over 180 peer-reviewed publications until October 2014. Younger scientists are trained in ecosystem management issues on BEAM doctoral courses and through participation in program activities. BEAM participants are frequently asked to advise national and international government agencies and institutions. So far over 30 internal meetings and public events have been arranged, directly or partly, by BEAM researchers. 5


p. 6

How has BEAM affected your area of interest? Views from the board at Stockholm University “The overarching aim of beam has been to open up for dialogue and collaboration among groups of researchers from different fields and perspectives. BEAM was a prerequisite for the establishment of the Baltic Sea Centre – a centre that will work as a resource to gather current science and experts in interdisciplinary projects with a societal relevance. This is a necessary approach in order to tackle the environmental problems in the Baltic Sea. ” Tina Elfwing Stockholm University Baltic Sea Centre “The societal focus of beam has resulted in more collaborations between social and natural scientists at Stockholm University - a great step forward. To enable productive, cross-disciplinary meetings a common language is needed; a conceptual framework or model where the different disciplines can meet in the same world-picture. At the Stockholm Resilience Centre we work with facilitating these kind of cooperations and through BEAM this role within the University has been further strengthened.” Carl Folke Stockholm Resilience Centre “beam has enabled us to initiate projects that focus on aligning our research on environmental toxins more closely with management needs. For example, we have been able to identify and explore applications of our modelling tools that could be of use when managing marine ecosystems. We have been sharing these developments with the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, and this has already strengthened the societal impact of our research.” Michael McLachlan Dept. of Applied Environmental Sciences 6


p. 7

“Thanks to beam, the ecological and ecotoxicological research at our department is now broader and more trans-disciplinary. The programme has strengthened the links across environmental monitoring, basic and applied research. Our synthesis of environmental monitoring data with advanced molecular and physiological analyses as well as modelling can help us identify mechanisms and causes behind population changes in Baltic Sea organisms. This knowledge provides a basis for ecologically sound management strategies.” Elena Gorokhova Dept. of Applied Environmental Sciences “beam has resulted in many worthwhile meetings among scientists from different disciplines and phases in their career. Just the fact that our steering board has representatives from six different departments that work together toward the same goal – to promote cooperation and management related research – has almost never happened during my 40 year long experience of academic work. This BEAM spirit is then transmitted to the departments and thus to a wider scientific community.” Lena Kautsky Stockholm University Baltic Sea Centre (member until 2011) “beam has made it possible to integrate environmental contaminants and toxins in the decision support system nest. Scientists at the Baltic Nest Institute depend on high-quality data to parameterize Baltic wide fluxes of matter such as nutrient and contaminant fluxes in the catchment or nitrogen fixation by cyanobacterial blooms or organic contaminant transport and fate in the sea. The knowledge is used to continuously improve our models that provided the basis for the Baltic Sea Action Plan. Collaboration within BEAM has considerably contributed to societal use of scientific research.” 7 Christoph Humborg Baltic Nest Institute, Baltic Sea Centre


p. 8

“Environmental law research at Stockholm University has a strong focus on international and transboundary dimensions. There are also strong ties and collaborations with other academic disciplines. These elements are well reflected in our activities within BEAM, where we have examined international, EU and national law with a focus on eutrophication in the Baltic Sea. Through BEAM, the Stockholm Environmental Law and Policy Centre has been able to pursue research on the legal dimensions of ecosystem management.” Jonas Ebbesson Dept. of Law “The resources from beam have generated fundamentally important research findings about microbes and shown their vast importance for life within and around the Baltic Sea. The BEAM programme has also strengthened the Baltic Sea research and contributed with a new, high-quality knowledge basis necessary for a future sustainable management of the unique resources characterizing the Baltic Sea.” Birgitta Bergman Dept. Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences (member until 2013) “beam builds a competence in research on ecosystembased management that is unique to Sweden. Examples include marine radioecology, marine remote sensing, two projects on cyanobacterial blooms, their metagenomics and production of neurotoxin, and their ecosystem effects, as well as the effects of climate change on Baltic Sea plankton, using our long-term ecological observations. All with the aim to improve environmental management of the Baltic Sea.” Ragnar Elmgren Dept. of Ecology Environment and Plant Sciences (programme coordinator) 8


p. 9

What controls nutrient flows into the Baltic Sea? In order to manage nutrient input and maintain good water quality in the Baltic Sea we must have good knowledge on the characteristics of its different water contributing catchment areas. How much do their nitrogen and phosphorous trends vary? How large are the roles of climatic, societal and land cover properties on the nutrient inputs to the sea? We have all heard that the load of nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen reaching the Baltic Sea has been increasing in recent decades and that this in turn has led to algal blooms and problems with eutrophication. An important indicator to keep track of in this regard may be the balance between nitrogen and phosphorous, namely the n:p ratio. Steve Lyon, Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Saaltink, R., et al. 2014, Societal, land cover and climatic controls on river nutrient flows into the Baltic Sea. Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies 1: 44. 9


p. 10

a b c – Since different algae species are either favoured or limited by these two nutrients, it is useful to monitor changes in the n:p ratios in the Baltic Sea water, says Dr. Ype van der Velde, beam associated hydrologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. In a newly published study he and colleagues investigated the spatial distribution of nitrogen and phosphorous trends in relation to characteristics of the catchment areas from which the nutrients are transported to the sea. By combining observed catchment-scale nutrient concentrations and discharge data for the period 1970–2000 with climate and land cover data, the team looked at how societal, climatic and land cover properties controlled nutrient inflows. – Our work demonstrates that differences between the socio-economic structure and development in eastern and western regions of the Baltic Sea drainage basin have led to significant (and varying) changes in n:p ratio trends, says Dr. Ype van del Velde. This is primarily due to shifts in the diffuse and point sources accompanied by a change in land cover influencing the loads of nutrients. Looking north-to-south, climatic variations also become a key driver in addition to these patterns of lifestyle. Annual trends in (a) temperature, (b) precipitation, and (c) stream flow between 19702000 over the Baltic Sea drainage basin. 10


p. 11

d e f Annual trends in (d) total nitrogen, (e) total phosphorus, and (f) N:P ratio between 19702000 over the Baltic Sea drainage basin highlight the regional differences. Targeted, adaptive management necessary – Our results indicate that the reasons why nitrogen and phosphorous trends vary are not the same in the different catchments, says Dr. Steve Lyon, beam associated hydrologist at Stockholm University’s Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology. Thus improving water quality likely requires different actions in different areas. This necessitates targeted, adaptive management strategies. The most effective way to reduce nitrogen is to continue to improve agricultural techniques and, specifically for n:p ratios, countries should still aim to develop better wastewater treatment plants and close heavy-polluting factories to reduce phosphorous loads. – Overall, due to the importance of n:p ratio for algal bloom composition, an emphasis of management strategies more on p reduction rather than on n reduction may be warranted since the increasing trends in total phosphorous appear to be responsible for a declining trend in the n:p ratio from eastern catchments, Dr. Steve Lyon concludes. 11


p. 12

Seafloor animals play a surprisingly large role in nutrient cycling Biogeochemical processes in Baltic Sea sediments provide essential ecosystem services, such as reducing eutrophication by removing nutrients or converting them to food for marine organisms. New BEAM research shows that small animals in the sediment affect the cycling of the essential nutrient nitrogen much more than expected. 12


p. 13

Field sampling in the Baltic Sea. Stefano Bonaglia examines the experimental sediments at the Askö Laboratory. Few species live in the bottom sediments of the Baltic Sea, but they can be very abundant where conditions are favourable. They are important for the decomposition of organic material and through their burrowing provide oxygen to organisms below the sediment surface. Links to eutrophication Stefano Bonaglia, doctoral student at the Department of Geological Sciences at Stockholm University and his co-authors have recently shown that both Marenzelleria, a polychaete that recently colonized the Baltic, and meiofauna, benthic invertebrates smaller than 1 millimetre, affect nitrogen cycling more than earlier suspected. – Even though meiofauna is orders of magnitude more abundant than macrofauna and is also more diverse, its role in nitrogen cycling has not been well understood, says Stefano Bonaglia. We have shown that meiofaunal communities stimulate microbial denitrification, that is, the removal of nitrogen from the system. Thus, meiofauna provides an important ecosystem service that helps to counteract eutrophication. In contrast, another experiment conducted by the team, showed that the invasive polychaetes Marenzelleria spp. did not stimulate denitrification as most infauna generally do. – Instead, these polychaetes enhance the transformation of nitrate to ammonium, a process that retains nitrogen in the system, thus tending to stimulate eutrophication, Stefano Bonaglia explains. Stefano Bonaglia and Volker Brüchert, Department of Geological Sciences, Stockholm University, Bonaglia, S., et al. 2014, Meiofauna increases bacterial denitrification in marine sediments. Nature Commun 5:5133. 13


p. 14

A new modeling tool simulates environmental toxins in the Baltic Sea Pollution by organic contaminants and other hazardous chemical substances is one of the major stressors in the Baltic Sea. Now researchers in BEAM have developed a new modeling tool that can predict future distribution of organic chemicals in the Baltic Sea. The well-recognized baltsem model (the BAltic sea Long-Term large Scale Eutrophication Model) is used to assess nutrient/carbon cycles and eutrophication in the Baltic Sea. This model has now been expanded to model also environmental transport and fate of organic contaminants – baltsem-pop. Organic contaminants are emitted within the Baltic Sea catchment, or transported there by air from outside. Fate, which means where the contaminants end up in the ecosystem, is influenced by a wide range of environmental factors, which are included in the baltsem-pop model. Emma Undeman, Baltic Nest Institute at the Baltic Sea Centre and the Department of Applied Environmental Science, Stockholm University, Undeman, E., et al. 2014, A novel modeling tool with multi-stressor functionality for organic contaminant transport and fate in the Baltic Sea. Sci. Total Environ. 407-408:382-391. 14


p. 15

– The novelty of the baltsem-pop model is that it dynamically calculates several key factors that can influence the amount and composition of contaminants ending up in the Baltic Sea, says Emma Undeman at the Baltic Nest Institute, Baltic Sea Centre and Department of Applied Environmental Science at Stockholm University. This means that the model takes into account short- and long-term variation in important factors such as carbon cycling, water flows, wind speed, water and air temperature. – It is important that the baltsempop model includes variation in these factors since they are affected by climate change and eutrophication. Moreover, this model can predict how contaminant concentrations will vary with the water depth for the entire Baltic Sea, says Emma Undeman. The accuracy of the new model was evaluated by comparing simulated concentrations of the important environmental toxins polychlorinated biphenyls (pcbs), dioxins and furans (pcdd/fs) and hexachlorobenzene (hcb) in water, suspended particulate organic matter and sediment with actual field observations. The baltsem-pop model predicted concentrations of most of these organic contaminants in water and sediment with high accuracy, while contaminant concentrations in particulate organic matter was more difficult to predict. – The generally good performance of the new model shows that it can be an important tool for predicting future contaminant concentrations in different matrices in the Baltic Sea in response to variations in input of contaminants and nutrients and climatic conditions, says Emma Undeman. 15



no comments yet