Naturally changing reference conditions: Evidence of isostatic uplift being the main cause of changes in ecological status in a SW Norwegian fjord system
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonDolven, J. K., & Alve, E. (2021). Naturally changing reference conditions: Evidence of isostatic uplift being the main cause of changes in ecological status in a SW Norwegian fjord system. Ecological Indicators, 131, 108162. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2021.108162
According to the European Water Framework Directive (WFD), restoration actions are needed if the present-day ecological quality status (EcoQS) is worse than good. However, less stringent environmental objectives may be allowed if the water body’s natural condition is such that it may be unfeasible or unreasonably expensive to achieve good conditions. In the Inner Skjolda- and Grindefjord, an isolated and shallow silled fjordsystem on the SW coast of Norway, the present EcoQS (based on benthic foraminifera and macroinvertebrates) is bad due to anoxic conditions in the bottom water. Paleoecological foraminiferal data in two dated sediment records were used to establish in situ reference conditions. The data revealed that the current bad EcoQS did not deviate from the natural reference condition which existed just prior to the onset of the industrial revolution. Further back in time, the record showed poor EcoQS and a strong dominance of the opportunistic foraminiferal species Stainforthia fusiformis, indicating unfavorable conditions for benthic foraminifera already >2000 years ago. The changing ecological status during the pre-industrial period was probably caused by the inner fjordsystem becoming gradually more isolated and stratified, and the bottom water more stagnant with decreasing oxygen concentrations, in response to isostatic uplift. Our study shows that reference conditions at a location may represent a natural succession of environmental changes i.e., the natural baseline does not have to represent only one environmental condition but may vary naturally over time. We therefore suggest that the conditions just prior to the onset of the industrial revolution should be used when defining reference conditions according to the WFD.