Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Exploring Coasts & Waterfronts: Scandinavia

As part of the CMRC's Sustainable Coasts Program we often explore the coasts and waterfronts around the world to learn from their environmental challenges and management and policy solutions. This week's Blog post examines the Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Norway and takes a deeper look at two nations with a long maritime history and deep respect for their coastal environment. JB

With the Artic Circle cutting straight across the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Sweden like the many glaciers that slice throughout their deep majestic fjords, these Nordic nations located in the far northern reaches of Europe are rich in coastal life and maritime communities. A long-standing relationship between the people of this region and the water that surrounds it have led to a healthy balance between development, access and conservation that supports the archipelago economically, socially and culturally.

Sweden's coastline is 7,600 km long (about 4000 miles) and it made up of hundreds-of-thousands of islands that are low-lying in nature. The biggest city and capital, Stockholm, has a population of about 1 million inhabitants and is located on a series of 30,000 islands that are connected by bridges and ferries. Many species and habitats are found along the Swedish coasts including rocky shorelines, sandy beaches and developed waterfronts. The Swedish people have long lived in close connection with the nearby Baltic Sea and its many tributaries that snake along the archipelago by living off the abundant fisheries of herring and salmon and crayfish that inhabit its waters.

The coast of Norway on the other hand consists of less low-lying islands and sandy beaches and more glacially influenced features such as fjords and rocky coastal outcroppings that are located adjacent to the powerful (and very cold) North Sea. Oslo, the nation's capital and largest city is located in the protected bays of of southeastern Norway and acts a major port for most of central Scandinavia. Meanwhile, Bergen the second largest city and maritime capital is located on the west coast with direct access to the North Sea. The entire region is home to fjords shaped by glaciers (the remnants of some which still exist today) and many small fishing communities up and down the coasts.

For Norway and Sweden the ocean and coasts are a significant part of daily living. The number of ferries located in the two countries number in the thousands as many communities and islands are connected only by boat. The cost of ferries in Scandinavia are incredibly low, and reflects the need (and support) for inexpensive water-based transportation. Swimming and fishing are a activity practiced by many inhabitants of the region and it is possible to fish and swim in the city center of Stockholm and almost the entire remainder of both coasts due to very good water quality. Greenroofs are common both in urban and rural settings and appear to contribute heavily to the health of the coastal waters due to decreased polluted runoff. Wind power is also widespread in both countries and appears to limit the need for powerplants on coastal waters.

However, all is not well in Scandinavia's coastal waters. Centuries of fishing and increasing populations have led to a serious decline in many aquatic populations. Eutrophication and toxic pollutants have had serious impacts on biodiveristy with more and more people moving into coastal areas. Eutrophication, or algae blooms due to nutrient inputs have depleted benthic fauna. In addition, increased boat usage with increasing population has led to shore erosion on many islands.

Luckily, some coordinated action has been taken to conserve and manage the region's coastal habitats and communities. Sweden, which is part of the European Union, has created a comprehensive Integrated Coastal Management Plan that focuses on the protection of its local habitats and species. In Stockholm, the County creates an annual report on its environmental objectives and their progress, one of which is "A Balanced Marine Environment." Norway, an independent nation, focuses most of their conservation at the country level. With the recent development of the oil and gas industry most management has focused on limiting the impacts of these industries. In addition, Norway has placed a major emphasis on protecting communities and historical coastal locations such as the Hanseatic Village in Bergen.

For more information:

Coastal Guide to Sweden

State of the Norway Coastal Environment

State of the North Sea

More Photos From Norway and Sweden

Google Map of Southern Norway and Sweden

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