The Baltic Sea is one of the most-studied seas in the world. It is a semi-enclosed, shallow northern estuary sized 420 000 km2 with a drainage area about four times its size. Its natural dynamics are characterized by an interplay of stagnation periods and nutrient-rich upwelling due to salt pulses from the North Sea. This interplay is linked with the frequency and extent of algal blooms because salt pulses break the stagnation period and make nutrients from sediments available to algae in the upper layer of the sea (Furman et al., 2004). Blue green algal blooms are a natural phenomenon of the Baltic Sea and have been recorded as early as 1885. At present, around 90 million people live in the Baltic Sea’s drainage area. Since the mid-19th century, algal blooms and the overall level of eutrophication has increased in the Baltic Sea due to anthropogenic nutrient discharges. This eutrophication is having various impacts in the ecosystem, including changes in fish populations, increase in filamentous algae, withdrawal of perennial fucoid algae and increased frequency of toxic algal blooms (Kautsky et al. 1986, Lindström and Virtanen 1992, Niemi 1982).References
The Archipelago Sea National Park, sized 220 km2 and consisting of thousands of islands, was established in 1983 in the South-West of Finland. It is an area where eutrophication has been clearly demonstrated, and where impacts on humans have arisen (Hänninen and Vuorinen 2001). The Biosphere area of the Archipelago Sea, the core of which is the national park, has 1200 inhabitants. The local inhabitants earn their living, among other things, from fishing, fish farming, agriculture, forestry and tourism. Hundreds of summer cottages owned or rented by people who stay in the area during vacation are situated in the area. In the 1980s, first human and animal toxification reactions caused by blue-green algal blooms were recorded. In addition, conflicts between fish farmers and other residents of the Archipelago Sea deepened due to impacts of smells and the prevalence of slimy algae. The conflict around fish farming has been maintained not least by the provision of contradicting information by various researchers and other stakeholders through the media without a synthesizing analysis (Peuhkuri 2002).
To gain local knowledge and to raise the awareness of users, the Finnish environment institute (SYKE) decided in 1998 to start a process of collecting data of the algal impacts throughout the country. The aim was to provide up-to-date information on the occurrence of cyanobacteria and their spatial and temporal variation during the summer months as a joint-venture of local and regional authorities, SYKE and Finnish Institute of Marine Research (FIMR). This process is still ongoing.
Each week a report is prepared at SYKE which of the following parts: (1) A summary which is a short one-page description of the weekly situation. (2) A map which shows by colour codes the situation at each observation site. (2) A cyanobacterial “abundance barometer” which allows comparison of the current situation to previous years. The barometer is calculated as the balanced mean of the observation sites and cyanobacterial abundance. (4) Descriptions of regional situations are also sometimes included in the report.
The media transmit this up-to-date scientific information, occasionally with big headings, to the users around the Archipelago Sea. The users thus learn about the present extent and impacts of the algal bloom and are thus able to react by calling the algae-line, a telephone line was opened for the users of the coast where anyone can report on the occurence of harmful algae and related problems, and get answers to his or her questions.
When the algae-line was opened in 1998, awareness rose quickly. After the first year, the number of calls reached 200-700 calls /year. No deeper analysis was carried out, however, whether the user reports to the algae-line was based on their reflections of the news or on objective documentation of the algal impacts in their own environment, and thus both alternatives remain as potential options. The aim of the process is to reach a more holistic picture of the algal problem. However, the reflections showed such a high complexity that a synthesizing long term approach such a LTSER would be needed before a holistic picture could be drawn and a more balanced communication strategy found.
Furman, E.R., P. Välipakka, H. Salemaa, and R. Munsterhjelm. 2004. Baltic Sea, Environment and Ecology. University of Helsinki, Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation, Ministry of Environment, Finnish Environment Institute and Southeast Regional Environment Centre. [online] URL http://www.environment.fi/balticsea.
Hänninen J., and I. Vuorinen. 2001. Macrozoobenthos structure in relation to environmental changes in the Archipelago Sea, northern Baltic Sea. Boreal Environment Research 6:93-105.
Kautsky, N., H. Kautsky, U. Kautsky, and M. Waern. 1986. Decreased depth penetration of Fucus vesiculosus (L.) since the 1940´s indicates eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series 28:1-8.
Lindström T., and T. Virtanen. 1992. A bloom of Prymnesium parvum Carter in a small coastal inlet in Dragsfjärd, Southwestern Finland. Environmental Toxicology and Water Quality 7:165-170.
Niemi, Å. 1982. Plankton blooms in the central and nothern Baltic Sea. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, Report ICES CM 1982/2(10), Copenhagen, Denmark.
Peuhkuri, T. 2002. Knowledge and Interpretation in Environmental Conflict. Fish-farming and Europhication in the Archipelago Sea, SW Finland. Landscape and Urban Planning 61:157-168.