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Quantifying the Nitrogen Retention Capacity of Natural Wetlands in the Large-Scale Drainage Basin of the Baltic Sea

31 Dec 1998

We estimate the nitrogen retention capacity of natural wetlands in the 1.7 million km2 Baltic Sea drainage basin, using a wetland GIS data base. There are approximately 138,000 km2 of wetlands (bogs and fens) in the Baltic Sea drainage basin, corresponding to 8% of the area. The input of nitrogen to natural wetlands from atmospheric deposition was estimated to 55,000–161,000 ton y1. A map of the deposition of both wet and dry nitrogen is presented. The input from the human population was estimated to 255,000 ton y1 in terms of excretory release in processed sewage water. There may also be leakage from forests and agricultural land into the wetlands. Due to lack of data on hydrology and topography, such potential nitrogen sources are not accounted for here. The capacity of the wetlands to retain the atmospheric deposition of nitrogen was estimated to 34,000–99,000 ton y1. The potential retention by wetlands was estimated to 57,000–145,000 ton y1 when the nitrogen input from the human population was added. If drained wetlands were to be restored and their area added to the present wetland area, the nitrogen retention capacity was estimated to increase to 196,000–261,000 ton y1. Our results indicate that existing natural wetlands in the Baltic Sea drainage basin annually can retain an amount of nitrogen which corresponds to about 5–13% of annual total (natural and anthropogenic) nitrogen emissions entering the Baltic Sea. The ecosystem retention service performed by wetlands accounts for a substantial nitrogen removal, thereby reducing the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea.

Status: Completed

Type: Staff Publications

Author: Åsa Jansson, Carl Folke, Sindre Langaas

Year of publication: 1998

Publisher: Landscape Ecology

Tags: Baltic Sea wetlands

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