Summary

The Baltic Sea is under great environmental stress as a result of human impacts, the ecological balance has been disturbed and eutrophication is one of the main environmental problems. The leakage of nutrients to the sea stimulates an over production of undesirable macro algae that accumulate at the shore, especially along the coasts of the Southern Baltic Sea. The eutrophication damages the ecosystem, e.g. fish populations, and leads to massive, sometimes toxic, cyanobacteria blooms occurring during the tourist season. This is a serious threat to the coastal tourism in the Southern Baltic area and to the local economies that are highly dependent on the tourism industry.

The WAB project aims to serve as a regional model for sustainable water management and integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) in the South Baltic Sea.
Together with farmers, the project will show how nutrient leakage can be decreased, and algae blooms reduced through the harvesting of wetlands and the collection of algae from the coastal zone. New techniques to reduce leakage and stop nutrients reaching the sea will be tested in the project. In addition the collected biomass will be fermented into biogas and then utilized for energy generation. The nutrients in the algae will, after the biogas fermentation, be re-used as fertilizers while at the same time pollutants absorbed by the biomass will be removed from the system.

The South Baltic area has a strong tourism sector with high recreational values that are negatively influenced by algae accumulating along the coast.
The project's concept of transforming a problem into a resource by preventing eutrophication through biogas production has several benefits for the region:
  • removing phosphorus and nitrogen from the Baltic Sea and returning it to arable land (posphorus is a limited resource that needs to be conserved to secure future food production)
  • decreasing nutrient leakage from farmlands by the harvesting of wetlands
  • stimulation of biodiversity
  • improvement on availability of coastal waters for juvenile fish and other important organisms.
  • improved coastal recreational values, and in the long term the regional economy.
  • reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from decomposing algae.
In short, the project offers an innovative holistic approach by constructing a cycle previously unseen in the Baltic Sea. The project has the potential to spread the findings throughout the South Baltic Region which would bring environmental, social and economical benefits to the area.