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Defining reference conditions for coastal areas in the Baltic Sea

image of Defining reference conditions for coastal areas in the Baltic Sea

The overall aim of DEFINE is to provide a methodology to define reference conditions for nutrient concentrations in the coastal zone of the Baltic Sea. This will aid the national authorities that surround the Baltic basin in implementing the EU's Water Framework Directive (WFD) by providing decision-makers with a methodology to assess reference conditions and the degree of past and present departure from this state, such that appropriate policy and management measures can be taken at national and European levels. DEFINE adopts a palaeoecological approach grounded on diatom-based transfer functions, which can then be applied to define background total nitrogen (TN) concentrations in estuaries and coastal areas over the entire Baltic Sea. All transfer functions and necessary supporting documentation will be publicly available as a coherent management tool and accessible via the MOLTEN/DEFINE web page (http://craticula.ncl.ac.uk/Molten/jsp/).

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Application – a management tool

In palaeolimnology, transfer functions describe the relationship between organisms and their environment with the ultimate goal to use the present- day ecology of organisms to infer past conditions. Transfer functions are established using the recent organism assemblages and measured environmental variables from a calibration data set. These calibration sets involve sampling a range of sites (e.g. lakes, estuaries) for a suite of environmental variables, which are then related to the biological indicators (e.g. diatoms) preserved in the surface sediments of the systems concerned using numerical techniques. The data collected in monitoring programs provide an ideal opportunity to construct calibration data sets.

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