How well do ecosystem indicators communicate the effects of eutrophication?

Anthropogenic eutrophication affects the Mediterranean, Black, North and Baltic Seas to various extents. Responses to nutrient loading and methods of monitoring relevant indicators vary regionally, hindering interpretation of ecosystem state changes and preventing a straightforward pan-European assessment of eutrophication symptoms. Here we summarize responses to nutrient enrichment in Europe’s seas, comparing existing time-series of selected pelagic (phytoplankton biomass and community composition, turbidity, N:P ratio) and benthic (macro flora and faunal communities, bottom oxygen condition) indicators based on their effectiveness in assessing eutrophication effects. Our results suggest that the Black Sea and Northern Adriatic appear to be recovering from eutrophication due to economic reorganization in the Black Sea catchment and nutrient abatement measures in the case of the Northern Adriatic. The Baltic is most strongly impacted by eutrophication due to its limited exchange and the prevalence of nutrient recycling. Eutrophication in the North Sea is primarily a coastal problem, but may be exacerbated by climatic changes. Indicator interpretation is strongly dependent on sea-specific knowledge of ecosystem characteristics, and no single indicator can be employed to adequately compare eutrophication state between European seas. Communicating eutrophication-related information to policy-makers could be facilitated through the use of consistent indicator selection and monitoring methodologies across European seas. This work is discussed in the context of the European  Commission’s Marine Strategy Franework Directive.

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McQuatters-Gollop, A., Gilbert, A.J., Mee, L.D., Vermaat, J.E., Artioli, Y., Humborg, C. and Wulff, F., 2009. How well do ecosystem indicators communicate the effects of anthropogenic eutrophication? Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 82: 583-596.

McQuatters-Gollop, A., 2009. Regional policies needed to tackle eutrophication in Europe’s seas Science for Environment Policy: DG Environment News Alert Service, 156: 1.

One Response to How well do ecosystem indicators communicate the effects of eutrophication?

  1. Pingback: Bill to deal with Lake Erie HABs passes Ohio Senate | Plankton and Policy

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