Quantifying the contribution of shipping NOx emissions to the marine nitrogen inventory – a case study for the western Baltic Sea


The western Baltic Sea is impacted by various anthropogenic activities and stressed by high riverine and atmospheric nutrient loads. Atmospheric deposition accounts for up to a third of the nitrogen input into the Baltic Sea and contributes to eutrophication. Amongst other emission sources, the shipping sector is a relevant contributor to the atmospheric concentrations of nitrogen oxides (NOX) in marine regions. Thus, it also contributes to atmospheric deposition of bioavailable oxidized nitrogen into the Baltic Sea. In this study, the contribution of shipping emissions to the nitrogen budget in the western Baltic Sea is evaluated with the coupled three-dimensional physical biogeochemical model MOM–ERGOM (Modular Ocean Model–Ecological ReGional Ocean Model) in order to assess the relevance of shipping emissions for eutrophication. The atmospheric input of bioavailable nitrogen impacts eutrophication differently depending on the time and place of input. The shipping sector contributes up to 5 % to the total nitrogen concentrations in the water. The impact of shipping-related nitrogen is highest in the offshore regions distant from the coast in early summer, but its contribution is considerably reduced during blooms of cyanobacteria in late summer because the cyanobacteria fix molecular nitrogen. Although absolute shipping-related total nitrogen concentrations are high in some coastal regions, the relative contribution of the shipping sector is low in the vicinity of the coast because of high riverine nutrient loads.
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