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Case study; Baltic Sea
Transcript of Case study; Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a crucial to the economy, the culture, and the connection between the Baltic countries; Finland, Sweden, Russia, Estonia, Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and even countries farther away, such as Germany and Norway.
The Baltic provides opportunities for clean energy plants, such as wind farms, and also supports the economy of very many small harbor towns located around the Baltic, through the fishing industry. It also enhances surrounding areas with significant cultural and aesthetic value.
Throughout European history, the Baltic has provided the Scandinavians with trade routes and enriched them enough to support development and good relations to large powers, in the middle ages for example. Microbes:
Prokaryotic Microbes: These include bacteria and viruses. the viruses in this subsection are usually found in large masses in small water areas, but also need their specific hosts in order to survive and reproduce. Most of the hosts are algae or bacteria.
The bacterial prokaryotes can be divided into two subsections, autotrophic (producing their own food) and heterotrophic (parasitic feeding and lifestyle). Each type of bacteria has specific roles and niches within the areas of the Baltic sea.
Eukaryotic Microbes: These are unicellular microorganisms, which are able to live both through autotrophy and heterotrophy, making them a mixotrophic species. They can be divided into assimilating algae, also referred to as microbial phytoplankton. The second division is known as heterotrophic protozoa, which can be divided into multiple organisms. Plants:
Phytoplankton: Phytoplanktonic algea is the most abundant species of plant within the Baltic Sea, with nearly as many as 2000 species. The phytoplankton can be divided into it’s many species by observing cellular structures, storage products, pigments and size. In the Baltic Sea, they form the first level of primary production, and are one of the most significant species worldwide due to their capability of producing oxygen and binding carbon dioxide.
Macroalgae: About 120 species can be identified in the Baltic, of which at least half are ecologically significant locally. Macroalgae can either have very simple cell structures, or can belong to a group consisting of more complicated cellular structures. Though most species are very separated and have taken significantly different evolutionary routes in development. Macroalgae can be divided into brown algae, green algae, red algae, charophytes, and other small groups. Half of these groups belong to a true plant species, while others cannot be classified as such. Animals:
Zooplankton: They are microscopic animals that float freely and slowly in open water currents. They are divided by size ranging from nanoplankton (flagellates 2-20 m) to megaplankton (jellyfish 0.2-2m). They can be found in all aquatic environments, such as lakes, seas, rivers and ponds. In the Baltic, the largest and perhaps one of the important within the size class of mesoplankton groups are crustaceans. Surprisingly, jellyfish are relatively unimportant part of zooplankton within the Baltic ecosystem.
Benthic Fauna: Basically the sea-insects of the Baltic.
Benthic fauna are a species which is currently lacking in the Baltic, as the sea is not a full salt water body of water, but is slightly less salty than most seas and oceans, making it a brackish water body. This creates difficulty for a large variety of species to occur within the sea. Other limiting factors include the composition of sediments, oxygen richness of the water, as well as biochemical reactions. Regardless, most species burrow above 20 cm depth under the sea floor.
Fish: During the rather short existence of the Baltic sea, communities of fish have been shaped by the rapid abiotic changes occurring. The Baltic fish species can be divided into 4 main groups, according to their origins; arctic species, boreal marine species, migratory species, and freshwater species. Most of these species have a high toleration for salinity changes in the Baltic, ensuring survival. The main types of fish found in the Baltic include herring, cod, flounder, and other varieties consisting of sea snails, eels, and gobies. Migratory species can also be found, including salmon, who spawn in freshwater conditions annually. 35 species of freshwater fish can be found in the Baltic, of which 5 species have been artificially introduced.
Marine Mammals: Compared to most other oceans, very few species of marine mammals can be found in the Baltic Sea. There are only 4 species identified in the Baltic. These species include;
1. Grey Seals: They are carnivorous, feeding on fish such as baltic herring and cod. They live in herds and spend summers closer to coastal areas, and during winters they drift closer to open waters. Their pups are born in late winter on ice sheets.
2. Ringed Seal: These live alone or in pairs, and mostly occur in waters that have ice at some point in the year. They feed on fish and benthic animals.
3. Harbor Seal: These seals are found in all northern seas, and in the Baltic occur near Sweden and Denmark. They live in small herds or alone, and feed on benthic fish as well as crustaceans and shellfish.
4. Harbor Porpoise: This species occurs in all northern seas, and is a permanent resident in the southern areas of the Baltic Sea. they live in coastal waters, travel in small pods or alone, and feed on Baltic herring, other fish and squid. Endangerment in the Baltic
Habitats: Habitats and biotopes found within the Baltic are also endangered, and some are just so rare that they are classified as endangered.
Lagoons are a good example of a declining habitat, due to human interference; pollution and eventual eutrophication. Lagoons in the Baltic are referred to as coastal lakes, and support a variety of species, as lagoons are in many cases biodiversity hotspots. According to research done by Helcom, almost all lagoons within the Baltic region are either endangered or on the decline.
Another example of habitats under threat are seagrass beds. These are areas on the ocean floor covered by mainly vascular plants, supporting diverse communities of fish, microbes and also play an important role in sediment chemistry upkeep. Seagrass beds belong to the most threatened marine biotopes in the Baltic, and are said to be the most sensitive to changes in the water caused by pollution and eutrophication, and therefore should be the most protected.
Species: Not only are the marine species in the Baltic threatened by the consequences of pollution, but also avian species who breed in the Baltic region are being threatened. For example black throated diver bird species, have had a massive breeding decline since the 1970’s. Countless fish species are also classified as critically endangered, such as spiny dogfish, and many of the other species are extinct such as the Atlantic/Baltic sturgeon, while others are expected to be extinct as soon as within the next two generations, for example the european eel.
Even mammal species are threatened, and considering that the Baltic only has four mammal species, this is very grave news. The harbor porpoise is endangered and has experienced a dramatic decline over the past 100 years, meaning that the species will soon be facing extinction if preventative measures are not taken. Baltic Wind Farms
There are currently 15 wind farms found in the Baltic Sea, of which 9 are owned by Denmark, 4 by Sweden, and one by Germany, as well as Finland. The most recent one (2010) was built by Denmark, funded by Siemens, which has 90 turbines and cost 400 million euros, the most expensive one found in the baltic so far, called Rødsand II. The cheapest built cost 4 million euros with 5 turbines, built by Sweden, called Bockstigen, built in 1998.
Baltic 1 Offshore was the first commercial wind farm to be built in the Baltic sea, which was commissioned in May 2011. It is owned by Germany and funded by Siemens. The plant is located about 16 km off the coast, in the Darss-Zingst Peninsula, and covers seven square km.
Although the construction phase for many wind farms has caused lots of trouble to the environment in question, interest in CO2 emission reduction is increasing, and many more wind farm projects are already planned and will possibly be constructed and commissioned in the future, after further development and research. Fishing in the Baltic sea
Due to high salinity in deeper waters, as well as low salinity in the coastal areas, the baltic supports a good range of marine life, especially fish, which are crucial to the economy of the surrounding countries. The fishing types are divided into many, the largest types include charter vessel fishing, boat fishing and shore fishing, which account for about 80-90% of fishing. The smaller section is through methods such as trawling and wading.
--- Cod has been one of the most significant commercial fish, and in the peak years of 1980-85, were farmed with stocks as high as 344000 to 442000 tonnes. Though from years 2000-2007 cod stocks have been the lowest since 1950’s, at 63000 to 150000 tonnes, the decline due to a drastic and worrying drop in cod productivity in recent years.
--- Salmon is also a significant part of the economy of the Baltic, but due to endangerment factors, new laws and changed systems, salmon stocks have been unstable. Wild salmon stocks are now less farmed, due to EU laws banning driftnet fishery, and this in turn will increase the amount of salmon spawners, which may endanger the wild species. In order to ensure the recovery of fish stocks though, it is recommended that landings should not exceed the catches of the previous year.
---Sea Trout is difficult to keep track of as many of the populations are very variable, some are doing excellently while others are going extinct. In 2008, the sea trout landings were about 900 tonnes in the Baltic sea, but there is room for improvement. Joint governments plan to restore spawning rivers and increase accessibility to them, as well as limit fishing in certain areas to decrease exploitation rates. The trout populations found in many areas are said to be below the potential level of growth. Baltic Amber
The Baltic area also supports the largest known deposit of amber, making up at least 80% of the world’s supply. Baltic Amber includes the most species rich fossilized insects discovered to date, and gave large insight to what species (including fauna and plants) have been extinct from the Baltic Sea, and when.
Cultures throughout history who were actively interested in Baltic amber trade included the Ottoman Empire and the Roman Empire. Later in history, in 1860, custom made ships and machinery were built to farm the amber, which became a big and long operation, yielding significant amounts of amber per year. The World Wars had many negative effects on the amber industry, but after many countries had gained their independence, for example Lithuania in 1918, had helped get amber back into business.
Currently, the biggest amber farms in the Baltic, produce more than 90% of the world’s amber in a year, so about 500,000kg per year. A small percentage of the amber farmed is used for jewelry and the rest is used to make amber oils, amber varnish and other products.
Amber mining has also contributed to a large amount of pollution in the Baltic, further explained in the pollution section. Pollution
The Baltic has a bad reputation and is known as the worlds most polluted sea, which is true to some extent. The Baltic is in a very unfortunate condition, due to the constant pollution and other threats. The sea’s condition has drastically decreased after the rapid industrial revolution in Scandinavia, and one of the main problems with dealing with the Baltics issues, is that the Baltic is practically isolated and water circulation and refreshment is poor and very slow, taking about 20 to 30 years to completely refresh itself.
The building of wind power plants has had a negative effect on the Baltic environment, as the drilling and machinery disturbs the environment on a physical as well as sonic level, scaring off many of the inhabitants in the area. Any mistakes in machinery, as well as custom made ships, could result in extra oil spills and littering pollutants.
Another reason for pollution has been in the past, when the amber resources on the surface were exhausted, and production moved into the marine environments. The amber demand rose, and so did the farming, which resulted in faster and more efficient machines being built, which were all increasingly detrimental to the environment. Not only did the drilling and digging cause noise pollution but also contributed to habitat destruction.
The largest and most significant consequence of pollution in the Baltic is eutrophication. This happens when pollutants and other substances, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, increase nutrient level drastically, causing plant species such as algae, and anaerobic bacteria species to become too abundant, causing other species in the food web to suffer. This happens when the algae blocks and other anaerobic bacteria leach nutrients from the remaining marine plants, leaving them to die, and causing a detrivore bloom, and these in turn leech all the oxygen, leaving all other species in trouble.
Eutrophication also decreases the suitability of the substrate for certain plants, and favoring other species with short life cycles, which all affects the food web in major and complex ways.
These nutrients come from a few main sources; air pollutants entering the water system, discharges for example waste water into rivers and the coast, as well as chemical runoffs from intensive agriculture.
Awareness of the Baltic problem is increasing, and countries are working together to decrease the problems. The first course of action is to decrease the amounts of nutrients being pumped into the sea, through enforcing laws of illegal dumping, for example. One of the main contributors to pollution in the Baltic is St. Petersburg in Russia. About 60% of the waste water they pump into their rivers which flow into the Baltic is not properly filtered and cleaned, and efforts to improve these habits are constantly pushed back due to financial lack. Financial and technology lack accounts for the lack of action from almost all Baltic involved countries and organizations.
Global warming also presents it’s own challenges, as the effects of global warming include increased rainfall, especially in the northern regions of the Baltic sea, causing further chemical and nutrient imbalances, which complicate the original problem. http://www1.american.edu/ted/amber.htm