Impact of Climate Change on Biology of the Baltic Sea

  • Markku ViitasaloEmail author
Part of the Lecture Notes in Earth Sciences book series (LNESS, volume 137)


Climate change is projected to increase air temperature, precipitation and river runoff in the Baltic Sea area. Consequently sea surface temperature will increase and salinity will gradually decline. Species’ geographical ranges will shift and populations increase or decrease according to the temperature and salinity tolerances of each species. Warming up of the Baltic Sea also favours establishment of non-indigenous species and increases metabolism of organisms. Increasing metabolism speeds up production and growth rates of secondary producers, but it may also enhance the uptake of harmful substances. Other important processes include rising of water level, decreasing pH as well as diminishing of sea ice. These processes will immerse coastal areas, slow down calcification of bivalves and deteriorate living conditions of species associated with sea ice. Increasing runoff of nutrients from land during winter will increase primary production and sedimentation of organic matter, which may enhance anoxia and release of phosphorus from sediments. Increasing temperature and declining salinity will however have complex effects on water stratification that may either worsen or alleviate the oxygen deficiency. In the deepest basins anoxia may become more common, while at mid depths (70–100 m) oxygen conditions may improve. In the Gulf of Bothnia, in contrast, where the rivers carry a large load of dissolved organic carbon, increasing freshwater runoff may shift the system towards a more microbially mediated production, and hence decrease primary production.


Phytoplankton Spring Bloom Danish Strait Salinity Decline Sprat Stock Increase Freshwater Runoff 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Andrén E, Andrén T, Kunzendorff H (2000) Holocene history of the Baltic Sea as a background for assessing records of human impact in the sediments of the Gotland Basin. Holocene 10:687–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Casini M, Cardinale M, Hjelm J (2006) Inter-annual variation in herring, Clupea harengus, and sprat, Sprattus sprattus, condition in the central Baltic Sea: what gives the tune? Oikos 112:638–650CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dippner JW, Vuorinen I, Daunys D et al (2008) In: BACC Author Team (ed) Assessment of climate change for the Baltic Sea Basin. Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, pp 309–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Döscher R, Meier HEM (2004) Simulated sea surface temperature and heat fluxes in different climates of the Baltic Sea. Ambio 33:242–248Google Scholar
  5. Ehlers A, Worm B, Reusch TBH (2008) Importance of genetic diversity in eelgrass Zostera marina for its resilience to global warming. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 355:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Flinkman J, Aro E, Vuorinen I, Viitasalo M (1998) Changes in the northern Baltic zooplankton and herring nutrition from 1980s to 1990s: top-down and bottom-up processes at work. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 165:127–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Graham LP, Chen D, Christensen OB et al (2008) Projections of future anthropogenic climate change. In: BACC Author Team (ed) Assessment of climate change for the Baltic Sea Basin. Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, pp 133–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hakala T, Viitasalo M, Rita H, Aro E, Flinkman J, Vuorinen I (2003) Temporal and spatial variability in the growth rates of Baltic herring (Clupea harengus membras L.) larvae during summer. Mar Biol 142:25–33Google Scholar
  9. Hänninen J, Vuorinen I, Hjelt P (2000) Climatic factors in the Atlantic control the oceanographic and ecological changes in the Baltic Sea. Limnol Oceanogr 45:703–710CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Härmä M, Lappalainen A, Urho L (2008) Reproduction areas of roach (Rutilus rutilus) in the Northern Baltic Sea: potential effects of climate change. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 65:2678–2688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Heino R, Tuomenvirta H, Vuglinsky VS et al (2008) Past and current climate change. In: BACC Author Team (ed) Assessment of climate change for the Baltic Sea Basin. Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, pp 35–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. HELCOM (2007) Climate change in the Baltic Sea Area. HELCOM Thematic Assessment in 2007. Baltic Sea Environment Proceedings 111. Helsinki Commission, HelsinkiGoogle Scholar
  13. HELCOM (2010) Atlas of the Baltic Sea. Helsinki Commission, HelsinkiGoogle Scholar
  14. IPCC (2000) Emission scenarios special report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  16. Karås P, Neuman E (1981) First year growth of perch (Perca fluviatilis L.) and roach (Rutilus rutilus (L.)) in a heated Baltic Bay. Rep Inst Freshw Res Drottningholm 59:48–63Google Scholar
  17. Karlsson O, Bäcklin B-M (2009) Magra sälar i Östersjön. Havet 2009:86–90Google Scholar
  18. Laine AO, Sandler H, Andersin A-B, Stigzelius J (1997) Long-term changes of macrozoobenthos in the eastern Gotland Basin and the Gulf of Finland (Baltic Sea) in relation to the hydrographical regime. J Sea Res 38:135–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lee BG, Wallace WG, Luoma SN (1998) Uptake and loss kinetics of Cd, Cr and Zn in the bivalves Poamocorbula amurensis and Macoma balthica: effects of size and salinity. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 175:177–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. MacKenzie BR, Köster FW (2004) Fish production and climate: sprat in the Baltic Sea. Ecology 85:784–794CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. MacKenzie BR, Schiedek D (2007) Daily ocean monitoring since the 1860s shows record warming of northern European seas. Global Change Biol 13:1335–1347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Meier HEM (2006) Baltic Sea climate in the late twenty-first century: a dynamical downscaling approach using two global models and two emission scenarios. Climate Dyn 27:39–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Meier HEM, Döscher R, Halkka A (2004) Simulated distributions of Baltic sea-ice in warming climate and consequences for the winter habitat of the Baltic ringed seal. Ambio 33:249–256Google Scholar
  24. Möllmann C, Kornilovs G, Fetter M, Köster FW (2005) Climate, zooplankton and pelagic fish growth in the Central Baltic Sea. ICES J Mar Sci 62:1270–1280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Naturvårdsverket (2008) Trends and scenarios exemplifying the future of the Baltic Sea and Skagerrak. Ecological impacts of not taking action. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency Report 5875Google Scholar
  26. Nissling A (2004) Effects of temperature on egg and larval survival of cod (Gauds morgue) and sprat (Sprattus sprattus) in the Baltic Sea – implications for stock development. Hydrobiologia 514:115–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Orr JC, Fabry VJ, Aumont O et al (2005) Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms. Nature 437:681–686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Österblom H (2006) Complexity and change in a simple food web – studies from the Baltic Sea (FAO area 27.IIId). PhD thesis, Stockholm University, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  29. Perttilä M (2012) Marine carbon dioxide. In: Haapala I (ed) From the Earth's core to outer space Lecture notes in Earth system sciences 137. Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, pp 163–170Google Scholar
  30. Rahmstorf S (2010) A new view on sea level rise. Nat Rep Climate Change 4:44–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rönkkönen S, Ojaveer E, Raid T, Viitasalo M (2003) Long-term changes in the Baltic herring growth. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 61:219–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Segerstråle SG (1969) Biological fluctuations in the Baltic Sea. Prog Oceanogr 5:169–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sherman K, Belkin IM, Friedland KD, O’Reilly J, Hyde K (2009) Accelerated warming and emergent trends in fisheries biomass yields of the World’s large marine ecosystems. Ambio 38:215–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sopanen S (2008) The effect of temperature on the development and hatching of resting eggs of non-indigenous predatory cladoceran Cercopagis pengoi in the Gulf of Finland, Baltic Sea. Mar Biol 154:99–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Suikkanen S, Laamanen M, Huttunen M (2007) Long-term changes in summer phytoplankton communities of the open northern Baltic Sea. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 71:580–592CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Viitasalo M, Vuorinen I, Saesmaa S (1995) Mesozooplankton dynamics in the northern Baltic Sea: implications of variations in hydrography and climate. J Plankton Res 17:1857–1878CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wikner J, Andersson A (2009) Increased freshwater discharge shift the carbon balance in the coastal zone. 7th Baltic Sea Science Congress 2009. Abstract Book. Tallinn University of Tecnology, TallinnGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Finnish Environment InstituteMarine Research CentreHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations