MIRACLE Mediating integrated actions for sustainable ecosystem services in a changing climate

More than 85 million people live in the Baltic Sea catchment area, and around 60-70 % of the land is farmland. Thus the agriculture and wastewater treatment sectors are key actors in combating eutrophication. The problem is, however, that there are insufficient incentives within these sectors to further reduce their contributions to nutrient enrichment of aquatic ecosystems. The hypothesis underpinning the MIRACLE project is that more effective approaches to ’nutrient governance’ cannot focus solely on the nutrient issue itself. Real changes will require bringing on board new constellations of stakeholders with issues that are interconnected with nutrient enrichment. We will seek win-win models for governance by emphasising synergies between aligned policy communities, such as the flood control sector, downstream urban communities vulnerable to flooding, biodiversity conservation interests, and the human health and biosecurity sector.

In this transdisciplinary project, social scientists work with economists and hydrologists in a social learning process with stakeholders. The aim is to identify new configurations for governance (conceptual, institutional and practice based) to reduce nutrient enrichment and flood risks in the Baltic Sea region. An example could be how to reform farming practices in a way that measures such as flood control and biodiversity conservation become new ’agricultural products’ which also impact emissions of nutrients.

A set of workshops will be organised in four case areas, the Berze (Latvia), Reda (Poland), Helgeån (Sweden), and Selke (Germany). Cross-case and regional workshops will facilitate scaling up the results to the Baltic Sea region level. The workshops will identify innovative actions and plans that offer multiple ecosystem service benefits to diverse stakeholders. The social learning process will be supported by interactive hydrological modelling of what impacts the suggested measures will have on nutrient transport and flooding risks. Here, uncertainty assessments and the need for adaptation to climate change scenarios are key features. Economists will assess the cost and benefits of selected governance features and policy instruments in the environmental mitigation and flood prevention scenarios. The goal is to identify the most socioeconomically efficient measures and governance features to deliver multiple ecosystem service benefits.

In the project, an interactive visualisation platform will be used where stakeholders will guide the use of input data sets and the development of visualised scenarios. The aim is to facilitate their understanding of suggested governance actions’ consequences and assist identification of novel actions. Policy analyses will be done to identify how institutional settings have shaped governance structures in the Baltic Sea region. In the next step, opportunities for greater integration of agricultural and environmental policy actions at different scales will be identified. A particular focus will be on identifying prospects for introduction of payments for ecosystem services as a key governance approach. Finally, emerging from the social learning process, to the project aims to support the development of road maps that integrate agricultural, environmental and risk management governance in the Baltic Sea region.