Published December 3, 2021 | Version v1
Thesis Open

Managing coastal eutrophication: Land-sea and hydroclimatic linkages with focus on the Baltic coastal system

  • 1. Stockholm University


  • 1. Stockholm University


Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary

Eutrophication endangers coastal ecosystems all over the world and is most often associated with an increase in anthropogenic nutrient loads to coastal waters, which fuel the growth of algae and create a variety of environmental problems. This is also the case for the Baltic Sea where coastal waters may be affected by various land, coast-sea, and hydroclimatic drivers and feedbacks, over different scales, including the eutrophic open sea. This thesis aims at improving our understanding of how these drivers affect coastal eutrophication and its management opportunities across the various coupled scales of the Baltic land-coast-sea system. To achieve this aim, the interactions between land-catchment, coastal, and open sea processes, and their influences on coastal eutrophication have been investigated through water quality modelling with applications to specific Baltic coastal waters. Hydroclimatic influences on the propagation of change-impacts through the land-coast-sea continuum to coastal eutrophication have also been investigated via the water quality modelling and additional analysis of actual water quality trends over the last 30 years along the Swedish coast. Moreover, coastal eutrophication research on the Baltic Sea system has been investigated through scientific literature analysis with focus on how the reported research has accounted for and linked components in the land-coast-sea system, and the aim to identify possible research gaps.

Results show that impacts of water quality improvements in the open sea propagate to a large share of the coastal waters, especially for phosphorus and phytoplankton, while impacts of reducing nutrient loads from land are more localised and more pronounced for nitrogen than for phosphorus. Therefore, reducing coastal nitrogen, phosphorus and phytoplankton concentrations requires both regional measures for open sea improvements and local land-catchment measures for reduction of nutrient loads to the specific coast. Moreover, data analysis shows that trends in coastal Summer chlorophyll a (Chl-a) are well correlated with those in open sea Summer Chl-a and in riverine nitrogen loads. Regarding hydroclimatic drivers, warmer and wetter conditions are found to complicate remediation of coastal eutrophication in comparison to drier and colder conditions. In addition, trends in coastal Summer Chl-a are well correlated with those in sea-ice conditions. These results highlight the various land-based, coastal, open sea, and hydroclimatic drivers and conditions that mix, interact in and influence the coastal waters. The various driver, management, and ecosystem components involved are overall included in Baltic coastal eutrophication research. However, specific coastal management measures, and feedbacks between drivers and impacts of coastal eutrophication are under-investigated, and the social and ecological components of the whole land-coast-sea system are not well-connected in the research.

Furthermore, long-lived legacy sources on land, as well as at sea, have not been much accounted for in coastal eutrophication research so far. This calls for further research on recovery time scales and specific remediation measures that can be effective against such sources, like mussel farming and wetlands. Finally, coastal eutrophication management needs to account for the influences on local coastal conditions from a melting pot of multi-scale drivers and biogeochemical as well as ecological impacts and feedbacks.

Available at:


Managing Coastal Eutrophicatio_Guillaume Vigouroux.pdf

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COASTAL – Collaborative lAnd Sea inTegration pLatform 773782
European Commission