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Nordic freshwaters and bioeconomy


Photo: Ragnar Våga Pedersen

How will the green transition change the land use in rural districts in the Nordic countries? And what consequences will this have for our water systems and the benefits we enjoy from clean water?

Biowater is a Nordic centre of excellence within bioeconomy that aims to find solutions to the management of land, the environment and water resources when Nordic countries implement the green shift.

Together with partners in agriculture, forestry, non-profit organisations and public administration, the researchers have mapped how the bioeconomy will develop in five scenarios. The scenarios are possible main directions for the future and build on what is known internationally as “Shared Socioeconomic Pathways”, translated into Nordic Bioeconomy Pathways.

“Our results show that if the bioeconomy does not develop in a sustainable manner, the impact of the bioeconomy on the rural landscape, in combination with expected climate change, will have serious negative consequences for our freshwater resources and society,” explains Biowater’s Project Lead Eva Skarbøvik.

It is a stated aim that food production in Norway must increase at the same rate as the population trend. This must either happen by intensifying production, or by cultivating new land.

Both will have an impact on the water environment. Agriculture must have nutrients for growing crops, but nutrients that end up in the water systems can lead to toxic algal blooms.

If there will also be increased deforestation followed by soil erosion and loss of nutrients, it could be very challenging for the water systems.

“That is why it is tremendously important to make increased efforts concerning environmental measures,” says Skarbøvik. “The advantage of working with these issues across the Nordic countries is that we learn from each other, including experiences on the effects on water quality and biology of different agricultural and forestry management practices, and environmental mitigation measures.”