Marine Physicist and IOW Boss Warns: Baltic Sea under Threat

Marine physicist and IOW boss: "The Baltic Sea is under stress"

The Baltic Sea is facing a multitude of negative influences such as excessive nutrient inputs, climate change, sea warming, declining sea ice formation, and heavy shipping traffic. “The Baltic Sea is clearly under stress,” says marine physicist Oliver Zielinski. However, Zielinski believes there is reason for optimism.

One positive consequence of social and political measures is the stagnation of cloudiness in the Baltic Sea since the late 1980s, albeit at a low level. More sewage treatment plants, a reduction in the discharge of nutrients from agriculture and detergent phosphates, have helped in this regard. “It gives me hope because it shows that human change can make an impact,” says Zielinski.

However, despite the large amount of data available on the Baltic Sea, it is not sufficient. This is especially true for online monitoring of marine biological and chemical processes. “We need more observation data,” says Zielinski. Measuring the right places and at the right time is crucial for efficient and meaningful measurements in connection with model simulations.

As the new director of the Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Warnemünde (IOW), Zielinski is launching a new focus on research into shallow water areas near the coast. This area has almost the same importance for the Baltic Sea as the inputs from the rivers. For this new focus, the IOW is hiring 15 new employees, mainly scientists.

Zielinski believes this area is poorly researched scientifically, as access to the area is limited, and the coastal areas are often pixelated on satellite maps. “The outskirts is a bit like our blind spot,” says Zielinski. Despite the challenges, Zielinski remains optimistic that human change can make a significant impact on the health of the Baltic Sea.

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