The future depends on what we do today – projecting Europe’s surface water quality into three different future scenarios

Mack, Leoni; Andersen, Hans Estrup; Beklioğlu, Meryem; Bucak, Tuba; Couture, Raoul-Marie; Cremona, Fabien; Ferreira, M. Teresa; Hutchins, Michael G. ORCID:; Mischke, Ute; Molina-Navarro, Eugenio; Rankinen, Katri; Venohr, Markus; Birk, Sebastien. 2019 The future depends on what we do today – projecting Europe’s surface water quality into three different future scenarios. Science of the Total Environment, 668. 470-484.

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There are infinite possible future scenarios reflecting the impacts of anthropogenic multiple stress on our planet. These impacts include changes in climate and land cover, to which aquatic ecosystems are especially vulnerable. To assess plausible developments of the future state of European surface waters, we considered two climate scenarios and three storylines describing land use, management and anthropogenic development (‘Consensus’, ‘Techno’ and ‘Fragmented’, which in terms of environmental protection represent best-, intermediate- and worst-case, respectively). Three lake and four river basins were selected, representing a spectrum of European conditions through a range of different human impacts and climatic, geographical and biological characteristics. Using process-based and empirical models, freshwater total nitrogen, total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a concentrations were projected for 2030 and 2060. Under current conditions, the water bodies mostly fail good ecological status. In future predictions for the Techno and Fragmented World, concentrations further increased, while concentrations generally declined for the Consensus World. Furthermore, impacts were more severe for rivers than for lakes. Main pressures identified were nutrient inputs from agriculture, land use change, inadequately managed water abstractions and climate change effects. While the basins in the Continental and Atlantic regions were primarily affected by land use changes, in the Mediterranean/Anatolian the main driver was climate change. The Boreal basins showed combined impacts of land use and climate change and clearly reflected the climate-induced future trend of agricultural activities shifting northward. The storylines showed positive effects on ecological status by classical mitigation measures in the Consensus World (e.g. riparian shading), technical improvements in the Techno World (e.g. increasing wastewater treatment efficiency) and agricultural extensification in the Fragmented World. Results emphasize the need for implementing targeted measures to reduce anthropogenic impacts and the importance of having differing levels of ambition for improving the future status of water bodies depending on the societal future to be expected.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pollution (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0048-9697
Additional Keywords: storylines, multiple stressors, climate change, land use change, water quality modeling, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, chlorophyll-a
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 05 Mar 2019 17:23 +0 (UTC)

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