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Baltic Sea faces suffocation threat. Scientists have been alarmed since 1987

Baltic Sea faces suffocation threat. Scientists have been alarmed since 1987

Image source: Β© European Space Agency
Marta Grzeszczuk,
01.03.2024 11:45

Seventy thousand square kilometres of the Baltic Sea lack oxygen, threatening marine life. Will the sea survive?

The issue of 'dead zones' or the dying of the Baltic Sea has received much attention lately. However, this is not a new problem. In fact, an article from the Los Angeles Times in 1987 reveals that scientists had already raised concerns about this issue. Unfortunately, their reports were ignored in favour of economic and political interests, a common occurrence in the climate crisis area.

The Baltic Sea is suffocating due to algae growth

The problems faced by the Baltic Sea began to emerge in the early 20th century with the invention of synthetic fertilisers. While these fertilisers helped increase agricultural productivity, they also resulted in the land being sterilised by repeatedly growing the same crops over large areas. The nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich fertilisers then flowed into rivers and eventually into the Baltic Sea, causing eutrophication (overfertilisation), which causes excessive algal growth.

"The amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that has been let out has increased steadily, and we know now that agricultural soil is so full of these chemicals that ever greater amounts will seep out," David Rehling, director of the Danish Society for Conservation of Nature, explained in the Los Angeles Times in 1987. Of course, there were other reports about the Baltic Sea’s dire situation in the following years.

The Baltic Sea is turning into an algae pond

The Baltic Sea is highly susceptible to algal overgrowth due to its location. It relies on the inflow of oxygen-rich water from the Atlantic Ocean, which only occurs through the Danish Straits and the North Sea. Unfortunately, it is one of the five most polluted seas in the world, with dead zones covering an area equivalent to Ireland - a staggering 70,000 square kilometres.

The Baltic Sea is dying
The Baltic Sea is dying (J. Carstensen et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014.)

Dead zones are areas where algae have created an environment without oxygen, rendering it uninhabitable for marine life. This significantly impacts fish populations, including common species like cod and hake, which are already endangered.

The Baltic Sea is also affected by global warming, which has raised the temperature of all the world's seas and oceans. Combined with intensive fertilisation, this creates ideal conditions for further algal proliferation and ultimately threatens the extinction of all other life in the Baltic Sea.

Will the European Green Deal improve the situation of the Baltic Sea?

The European Green Deal includes provisions that call for a 20% reduction in the use of artificial fertilisers. Additionally, farms with an area of over 10 hectares will be required to set aside a portion of their land. This means that 4% of the land belonging to large-scale farms will be rested to allow it to regenerate after years of fertilisation and insecticide use.

However, farmers in many EU countries, including Poland, are protesting against these measures. They argue that these regulations will make it impossible to maintain their current levels of production and profits. But as the prophecy of the North American native people of Cree states: "When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned, you will realise that you cannot eat money."

Source: latimes.com, oceanservice.noaa.gov

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