Tracing environmental change and human impact as recorded in sediments from coastal areas of the northwestern Baltic Proper / Lena Norbäck Ivarsson.
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Publicerad:Huddinge :Publicerad:Environmental science, Environmental studies, School of natural sciences, technology and environmental studies & the Baltic and East European graduate school, Södertörns högskola, (Södertörn university),Publicerad:
The eutrophication of the Baltic Sea due to increased anthropogenic nutrient loads during the 20th century is well documented and studied. However, in the Baltic Sea drainage area, humans have affected the environment longer than the environmental monitoring can provide data for. Sediment records from lakes and seas can provide fundamental data on the environmental conditions before ecosystems were impacted by humans and give the range of natural variation. This thesis presents diatom and geochemistry stratigraphies from five sediment records along the southeast coast of Sweden, northwestern Baltic Proper. These records cover time periods of 500 years to more than 2,000 years. The diatom stratigraphies and geochemical proxies allow for reconstruction of environmental histories at these sites. Overall, the results show that the environmental changes that have occurred in the coastal zone in recent centuries are unprecedented over the last two millennia. The records from the coastal zone show only minor variations in the diatom stratigraphies and nitrogen stable isotope signals through history until recent centuries. The results show no evidence of increased runoff of nutrients from land during medieval times. Temperature anomalies since 500 CE have had little or no significant effect on the diatom assemblages from the coastal sites, while increased nutrient input from land has had a significant effect. Anthropogenic nutrient runoff has affected the diatom assemblages most markedly during the 20th century. The results show a time lag of the onset of eutrophication of approximately 100 years between the coast and open Baltic Sea, highlighting how the coastal zone acts as a buffer for the open Baltic Sea. The timing for the onset of eutrophication in these coastal areas is site-specific. For several sites, reference conditions prevailed more than 200 years ago. Water transparency at this time allowed for extensive distribution of benthic diatom habitats, such as macrophytes. The years of maximum nutrient load to the Baltic Sea during the 1970s–1980s is recorded in the diatom stratigraphies, especially with regard to the concentration of diatom valves in the sediments. There has been a recovery in diatom absolute abundance since maximum pollution years. However, there is no indication of a recovery in diatom species composition in the investigated coastal sites, and these sites are thus far from reaching a “good environmental status” according to the EU Water Framework Directive. The outcomes of this thesis highlight the importance of a longer time perspective than the environmental monitoring can provide.