At the 5th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), Dr. Grit Martinez, Senior Fellow at Ecologic Institute outlined the research approach of the BONUS-project "Soils2Sea" at the work stream session: "Successful cooperation: research, development and innovation".
The event which was convened by BONUS, the joint Baltic Sea research and development programme and the EUSBSR Sustainable Development horizontal action leader, Council of the Baltic Sea States demonstrated the needs for strong research and innovation funding, governance structure and well established science-policy dialogue frameworks for creating the scientific and technological basis for the development of sustainable solutions in support of Blue and Green Growth. In an interactive panel Q&A session the conveyer raised topics of interest through "science-policy counter parts" bringing together panelists from the BONUS research projects Soils2Sea and COCOA, the ministries of environmental protection and research institutions from Poland, Finland and Sweden. A detailed list of panelist and their contributions is available online.
The two-day Annual Forum of the EUSBSR and the Baltic Development Forum Summit was hosted by the City of Turku and brought together over 1200 Baltic Sea region decision makers and experts.
In her impulse statement Dr. Martinez stressed that more than 50% of the eutrophication is caused by nutrient runoff from traditional farming and hence eutrophication is one of the most serious environmental risks for the Baltic Sea. Although a multitude of measures have been put in place since the 1970s the problem has not yet been solved.
Soils2Sea aims to develop measures to support a point of place reduction of nutrient loadings from agricultural soils to the Baltic Sea via groundwater and streams. Out of 87 proposals Soils2Sea is one of seven interdisciplinary research consortia which were selected from the 2012 BONUS call Viable ecosystem. Started in 2014, the four year project brings together eight institutions from the Baltic Sea region in an interdisciplinary research team. Led by the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) under Jens Christian Refsgaard, the project will undertake rigid research on the differences on how nutrients leak to the waterways depending on the kind of soil and cultivation methods. Via case study sites in Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Russia various models will be tested to find answers at the regional levels on how to develop most cost-effective reductions of agricultural nutrient loads. Although uniform regulations are easier to administrate the project team hypothesizes, that spatially differentiated regulations will be more cost-effective.
In her statement Dr. Martinez underlined that not only the spatial conditions differ across the Baltic Sea region but also the perceptions, values, beliefs, thoughts about nature, the environment and hence needs, acceptance and uptake of regulations. For instance, in countries with high intensity farming the regulation of agricultural production is based on monitoring and control of inputs such as amounts of fertilizers and crop types. This system puts a heavy administrative burden on farmers without any flexibility towards allowing them to find local solutions based on local cultural knowledge, possibilities and spatial conditions. Therefore Soils2Sea will investigate in regional particularities of history, political and legal traditions, socio-economic patterns, structures of governance in various case study sites in Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Russia to better understand needs of farmers and other key stakeholders in order to develop discuss and test new policy options and governance concepts. The research is part of the work package on "Governance, monitoring and stakeholder process" and will be carried out by Ecologic Institute's Dr. Grit Martinez, Doris Knoblauch and Dr. Nico Stelljes.