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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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Executive summary

A historical perspective is important for managing impacted marine ecosystems as it can indicate trajectories of change that more traditional local ecological studies cannot (e.g. Hughes et al. 2005). Changes in phytoplankton composition may reflect structural and functional shifts in the ecosystem (Wasmund & Uhlig 2003), but living phytoplankton concentrations are extremely variable in time and space and consequently have a very patchy distribution (Kononen 2001). Palaeoecological studies of fossil diatom assemblages can present a regional historical depiction without the patchiness of living phytoplankton data. In this study we have used a palaeoecological approach to try to enhance the knowledge of historical nutrient concentrations in different parts of the Baltic Sea coastal waters.

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