New estimate from BONUS COCOA: The coastal filter permanently removes more than half of the phosphorus entering the Baltic Sea and one-sixth of the nitrogen
Based on the new results published in a special issue of Limnology and Oceanography journal this week, BONUS COCOA estimates that the coastal filter in the Baltic Sea removes 16% of nitrogen and 53% of phosphorus inputs from land. Nutrient removal rates are specific to ecosystem types: lagoons are hot spots for denitrification and archipelagos for phosphorus burial. In fact, archipelagos act as important phosphorus traps which account for as much as 45% of the coastal phosphorus removal despite them covering only 17% of the coastal areas of the Baltic Sea. Such high burial rates could be partly sustained by phosphorus import from the open Baltic Sea.
Substantial knowledge gaps remain, however, regarding the importance of different regulating factors, as well as our understanding of the seasonal and spatial variability of nutrient removal processes.
Asmala, E., Carstensen, J., Conley, D. J., Slomp, C. P., Stadmark, J. and Voss, M. (2017), Efficiency of the coastal filter: Nitrogen and phosphorus removal in the Baltic Sea. Limnol. Oceanogr.. doi:10.1002/lno.10644
An important function of coastal ecosystems is the reduction of the nutrient flux from land to the open sea, the coastal filter. In this study, we focused on the two most important coastal biogeochemical processes that remove nitrogen and phosphorus permanently: denitrification and phosphorus burial. We compiled removal rates from coastal systems around the Baltic Sea and analyzed their spatial variation and regulating environmental factors. These analyses were used to scale up denitrification and phosphorus burial rates for the entire Baltic Sea coastal zone. Denitrification rates ranged from non-detectable to 12 mmol N m-2 d-1, and correlated positively with both bottom water nitrate concentration and sediment organic carbon content. The rates exhibited a strong decreasing gradient from land to the open coast, which was likely driven by the availability of nitrate and labile organic carbon, but a high proportion of non-cohesive sediments in the coastal zone decreased the denitrification efficiency relative to the open sea. Phosphorus burial rates varied from 0.21 g P m-2 yr-1 in open coastal systems to 2.28 g P m-2 yr-1 in estuaries. Our analysis suggests that archipelagos are important phosphorus traps and account for 45% of the coastal P removal, while covering only 17% of the coastal areas. High burial rates could partly be sustained by phosphorus import from the open Baltic Sea. We estimate that the coastal filter in the Baltic Sea removes 16% of nitrogen and 53% of phosphorus inputs from land.