HELCOM to participate in the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun
Cancun, Mexico, 29 November (HELCOM Information Service) – As an observer intergovernmental organization the Helsinki Commission for the protection of the Baltic marine environment will take part in the United Nations Climate Change Conference that gets under way in Cancun, Mexico, on Monday. HELCOM will also showcase its activities at the exhibition which is held within the framework of this global conference.
“Climate matters beneath the waves of the Baltic Sea,” says Anne Christine Brusendorff, HELCOM’s Executive Secretary. “Recent reports have revealed that climate related ecosystem changes are already taking place in the Baltic Sea region and further impacts of climate change make it crucial to decrease human induced pressures on the Baltic marine environment. The suite of actions and measures outlined in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan has been tailored to achieve a healthy sea which will ultimately be better prepared for the extra challenges caused by climate change.”
How does climate affect the Baltic Sea? The Baltic Sea is becoming warmer, winter ice coverage has diminished and the sea appears to be becoming more acidic and lake-like. A warming trend, steeper than the global trend, has already been observed in the Baltic Sea region and an increase of 3-5ºC in the annual mean air temperature is projected for the region during this century. Annual surface water temperature is on the rise with a projected increase of 2-4ºC by the end of the 21st century, and the duration of winter sea ice coverage has shortened by 0.5-1.5 months compared to the early 1900s. The reproductive success of ringed seals, an endangered arctic species dependent on ice, is expected to be reduced.
Acidification is already occurring with an observed pH reduction of 0.15 in the past 20-30 years. In the brackish water environment of the Baltic Sea, organisms with calcified structures, such as certain bivalves and snails, are particularly vulnerable to decreasing pH.
Precipitation is projected to increase causing higher riverine freshwater input, lowering the salinity levels and thus affecting the distribution ranges and abundances of species. Ranges of ecologically important habitat-forming species such as bladder wrack (Fucus vesiculosus), eelgrass (Zostera marina) and blue mussel (Mytilus trossulus) will be reduced if salinity decreases as projected.
Additionally, increased precipitation could stimulate eutrophication, the most serious environmental problem facing the Baltic Sea, by bringing more nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from the catchment to the sea. Their loads are largely responsible for the eutrophication of the sea which leads to such problems as intensified algal blooms, murky water, oxygen depletion and lifeless sea bottoms.
The implementation of the overarching HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan to radically reduce pollution to the marine environment and restore its good ecological status is very important in the face of climate change. The plan aims to achieve by 2021 a healthy Baltic Sea in terms of eutrophication, pollution by hazardous substances, biodiversity, as well as environmentally sound maritime activities. Reduction of other human pressures on the Baltic Sea ecosystem is essential for making the sea more resistant to the impacts of climate change.
Note to Editors:
The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as the Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organization of all the nine Baltic Sea countries and the EU which works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution.
HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area," known as the Helsinki Convention.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Nikolay Vlasov
Tel: +358 (0)46 8509196
Fax: +358 (0)207 412 639