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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Cost Effectiveness of Ecosystem-Based Nutrient Targets-Findings from a Numerical Model for the Baltic Sea

Gren, Ing-Marie; Tirkaso, Wondmagegn Tafesse


An ecosystem-based management of a large sea can give heterogeneous nutrient load targets for different parts of the sea. Cost effective solutions to heterogeneous nutrient reductions targets based on ecological conditions are compared with the same overall nutrient reductions to the Baltic Sea. To this end, a numerical programming model is used, which includes eight different nutrient abatement measures (fertilizer and livestock reduction, cultivation of catch crops, reduced airborne nitrogen emissions, improved cleaning at sewage treatment plants, construction of wetlands and buffer strips, and mussel farming) in 21 catchments of the Baltic Sea. The results indicate that the cost for the international agreement on maximum load targets to different marine basins amounts to 5.3 billion euro. This is more than twice as large as the cost for the same total nutrient load targets to the Baltic Sea without specific targets for the marine basins. However, the resulting nutrient loads to the different marine basins deviate from the basin targets where the loads are lower for some basins but can exceed that for one basin, Baltic Proper, by approximately 22 per cent. Whether or not the ecological costs and benefits from deviations in basin targets under the Baltic Sea targets exceed the excess abatement cost of 2.9 billion euro for achieving the marine basin targets remains to be verified.


cost-effectiveness; ecosystem-based nutrient load targets; Baltic Sea

Published in

2020, Volume: 12, number: 10, article number: 2679
Publisher: MDPI

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    • Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG14 Life below water

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