LivingLab East & Baltic Proper

LivingLab leader

Karina Barquet

Area characteristics

Ecosystem: The Baltic Sea is the world’s largest body of brackish water, with unique ecosystems and habitats, created by the combination of large freshwater input from rivers and the very restricted exchange with the open ocean, through the Danish straits. The Baltic proper is eutrophicated, with high primary production (including Harmful Algal Blooms, HABs) and drastic cycles of hypoxia during the past 30 years, which in some places have turned into permanent hypoxia and anoxic bottom conditions (Shahabi et al., 2022). This is ruining crucial habitats, such as spawning grounds for cod, and in addition causes a chemical feedback loop with large leakage nutrients from the sediments.
Economy and users: The Baltic Proper is one of the most heavily trafficked seaways in the world, with great importance to international trade and to the national security interests of the countries in the region. Sweden has the largest EEZ, including the central area surrounding Gotland. The region is traditionally and recently the focus of intense military and security concerns. Gotland is often regarded as one of the weak spots in Sweden’s military defense. International trade and connection are also intense along the sea bottom, with interconnectors for communication and electricity, and with the contentious gas pipelines Nord Stream 1 & 2, which run through the Swedish EEZ to the East of Gotland. Sweden has extensive plans for offshore wind farms, including in the shallower areas around Gotland, and some areas may be deemed adequate for sand extraction. Commercial fishing takes place over wide areas. The catch is to a large extent used for animal feed. The tourism industry is large around the whole of Baltic Proper, including Gotland.
Society and governance: Gotland is Sweden’s largest island, located in the centre of the Baltic Proper. While the island has only around 60,000 permanent inhabitants, it receives over a million tourists on a yearly basis, mainly during the summer season. A substantial share of the summer population is made up of seasonally returning house owners. This group has increased following the pandemic and extended its presence throughout the year. Seasonality and changing demographics are substantial challenges for management of resources and services. There are no areas beyond jurisdiction of EU member states in the Baltic Sea (except areas under Russian jurisdiction), which means that all water is covered by the EU Marine Strategic Framework Directive (MSFD) and the Water Framework Directive (WFD). HELCOM, however, includes Russian waters and cooperates with the EU.
The area around Gotland is an intense hotspot for a mixture of complex and highly international issues. Working for the restoration of more resilient ecosystems and climate change mitigation and adaption, while also managing multi-sector and multi-national interests, including trade, fisheries, and energy security. Omni-present and now increasing military concerns.

Area stakeholders

Public sector:   Region Stockholm, Blue Centre Gotland, County Administrative Board Gotland, Region Gotland, Municipality of Gotland, HELCOM, SwAM, SEPA, SMA, SEA, Svenska kraftnät, Geological Survey of Sweden
Private sector: LifeFinder Syst. International AB, Sensative AB, Fossil Free Marine Europe AB, Ecobarge Sweden AB, Marell Boats AB, Terntank AB, Cetasol AB, Sveavind Offshore AB, Sweden Pelagic Federation, Hitachi Energy AB, SeaTwirl AB, Fossil Free Marine Europe AB, Clinton Marine Survey AB, Windeed AB, Combine AB
Civil society:   Sportfiskarna, Initiativ Utö, Svenska Båtunionen, Stockholms Ornitologiska förening, Skärgårdsstiftelsen i Stockholms län, Sveriges Organiserade Fiskeguider, Nämdö Green Archipelago, Nordiska skärgårdssamarbetet, The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), WWF, Algal Bloom citizen science
Academia:        SIME, UGOT, CIT, WMU, IHE, Chalmers

LivingLab objectives

Scientific – ecosystem & climate: Improved understanding, based on new data sources, including citizen-based approaches, to monitor ecosystem health, increase predictability and reduce impacts on society, for example tourism losses due to algal blooms. Explore how human offshore presence (e.g. energy, shipping) and economic activity can co-exist with ecosystem resilience, and even have a positive impact on biodiversity.
Technological: Shared data acquisition – private, citizen-science, and public actors – in offshore settings to understand opportunities for multifunctional regenerative interventions and improve predictability of ecosystem effects.
Governance & adaptive mgt: Connecting small, medium and large-scale actors, operating in new and upcoming marine industries and their value chains. Develop mechanisms for predictable and realistic conditions for sustainable management of the offshore environment in an intensely international and geopolitically sensitive context.
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