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Dire Future Predicted for Europe's 4 Seas

A 2.5 million Euro research project, European Lifestyles and Marine Ecosystems, has predicted a dire future for Europes four regional seas.

As part of the research, the group of over 100 scientists from 28 institutions from 15 European countries, focused on the four major European sea areas: Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and North-East Atlantic.

The researchers examined four cross-cutting environmental issues: habitat change, eutrophication (over-fertilisation of the sea), chemical pollution and fishing.

For each issue and sea, the scientists devised models linking economic and social drivers, environmental pressures and the state of the environment.

Findings revealed that Europes regional seas were showing a serious state of decline, particularly when the complex web of interactions between different human pressures was taken into account.

Eutrophication continued to be a severe problem for the most enclosed seas (the Baltic Sea, Black Sea and the Adriatic within the Mediterranean Sea).

Researchers said this was partly due to a legacy of past phosphate and nitrogen loads (from agriculture and industrial/domestic effluent) that had accumulated in soils, aquifers and sediments and continued to leak into the sea.

This may be further exacerbated by nutrient loads accompanying intensification of food production in Europe. This combination of pressures limits the scope for short-term remedial action and in the case of the Baltic Sea; short-term prospects for reducing eutrophication are particularly bleak, said Prof. Laurence Mee, the project coordinator, and Director of the Marine Institute at the University of Plymouth.

Prof. Mee said European political and economic landscape had witnessed unparalleled changes in the last two decades, particularly resulting from expansion of the EU, decline of the centrally planned communist Bloc and pursuit of rap
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