Shipborne nutrient dynamics and impact on the eutrophication in the Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea is a severely eutrophicated sea-area where intense shipping as an additional nutrient source is a potential contributor to changes in the ecosystem. The impact of the two most important shipborne nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus, on the overall nutrient-phytoplankton-oxygen dynamics in the Baltic Sea was determined by using the coupled physical and biogeochemical model system General Estuarine Transport Model–Ecological Regional Ocean Model (GETM-ERGOM) in a cascade with the Ship Traffic Emission Assessment Model (STEAM) and the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model. We compared two nutrient scenarios in the Baltic Sea: with (SHIP) and without nutrient input from ships (NOSHIP). The model uses the combined nutrient input from shipping-related waste streams and atmospheric depositions originating from the ship emission and calculates the effect of excess nutrients on the overall biogeochemical cycle, primary production, detritus formation and nutrient flows. The shipping contribution is about 0.3% of the total phosphorus and 1.25–3.3% of the total nitrogen input to the Baltic Sea, but their impact to the different biogeochemical variables is up to 10%. Excess nitrogen entering the N-limited system of the Baltic Sea slightly alters certain pathways: cyanobacteria growth is compromised due to extra nitrogen available for other functional groups while the biomass of diatoms and especially flagellates increases due to the excess of the limiting nutrient. In terms of the Baltic Sea ecosystem functioning, continuous input of ship-borne nitrogen is compensated by steady decrease of nitrogen fixation and increase of denitrification, which results in stationary level of total nitrogen content in the water. Ship-borne phosphorus input results in a decrease of phosphate content in the water and increase of phosphorus binding to sediments. Oxygen content in the water decreases, but reaches stationary state eventually.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Last updated: 2021-05-17

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

About IVL

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute has a wide environmental profile. We combine applied research and development with close collaboration between industry and the public sphere. Our consultancy is evidence-based, and our research is characterized by interdisciplinary science and system thinking.


Ikon med telefon

+46 (0)10-788 65 00

Social media

Ikon med LikedIn
Ikon med twitter
Ikon med facebook


© 2023 IVL Svenska Miljöinstitutet AB | About Cookies | How we process personal data

Ikon med kryss
To top