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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Comparing nutrient reference concentrations in Nordic countries with focus on lowland rivers

Skarbovik, Eva; Aroviita, Jukka; Folster, Jens; Solheim, Anne Lyche; Kyllmar, Katarina; Rankinen, Katri; Kronvang, Brian


Reference conditions of water bodies are defined as the natural or minimal anthropogenically disturbed state. We compared the methods for determining total phosphorus and total nitrogen concentrations in rivers in Finland, Norway and Sweden as well as the established reference conditions and evaluated the possibility for transfer and harmonisation of methods. We found that both methods and values differed, especially for lowland rivers with a high proportion of agriculture in the catchment. Since Denmark has not yet set reference conditions for rivers, two of the Nordic methods were tested for Danish conditions. We conclude that some of the established methods are promising but that further development is required. We moreover argue that harmonisation of reference conditions is needed to obtain common benchmarks for assessing the impacts of current and future land use changes on water quality.


Nordic; Nutrients; Reference conditions; Rivers; WFD

Published in

AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
2020, volume: 49, number: 11, pages: 1771-1783
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Skarbovik, Eva
Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO)
Aroviita, Jukka
Finnish Environment Institute
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Solheim, Anne Lyche
Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Rankinen, Katri
Finnish Environment Institute
Kronvang, Brian
Aarhus University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water and sanitation

UKÄ Subject classification

Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
Environmental Sciences

Publication Identifiers


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