In September 1988 the Ministers of Environment of the Baltic Sea States decided
that anthropogenic loading to the Baltic Sea should be reduced by 50 % from 1987
levels by the year 1995 (The 1988 Ministerial Declaration). Due to partly unrelia-
ble and/or missing loading data, real progress in achieving this target could not
be assessed regarding the entire Baltic Sea catchment area. The Extraordinary
Meeting of the Helsinki Commission decided in 1999 that the Land-based Pollu-
tion Group (HELCOM LAND) shall monitor and assess the implementation of the
strategic goals set in the Declaration, as well as to report on the implementation
of the Declaration.
The present report assesses the development of nitrogen (N) and phospho-
rus (P) discharges, based on the so called source-orientated approach, i.e. loading
figures for point (municipalities, industry, fish farming) and diffuse (agriculture)
sources. In addition, some countries have also presented information on nutrient
retention in river catchments and the net loads to the Baltic Sea (load-orientated
approach). It should be highlighted that it is difficult to reliably estimate losses
from agriculture into surface water, and that the models and methodologies used
do not necessarily provide comparable and/or accurate estimates of these loads
between different countries and time periods.
The report summarises the national nitrogen and phosphorus loading figures
for 1987 (or any other year or period in the late 1980s) and 1995, as well as the re-
duction achieved between these years. The national loading figures have been
collected in long-term monitoring programmes, which, however, differ among
countries, especially regarding diffuse loading. Additionally, some of the loading
figures for the late 1980s have been calculated based on background statistics and/
or model calculations, without the possibility of verification by monitored data.
The loading figures for 1995 are, for the most part, calculated from the data ob-
tained in monitoring programmes.
The country-specific reduction figures were produced by the national experts
of the project group, and the overall results and their comparison are based on
these estimates. Regarding point sources, the 50 % reduction target was achieved
for phosphorus by almost all the Baltic Sea countries, while most countries did not
reach the target for nitrogen. In general, the reductions were biggest both for point
and non-point sources in the transition countries, due to fundamental changes in
their political and economical systems in the early 1990s. In EU member countries,
the observed decrease was usually smaller and was based on water protection
measures implemented during the period. This development strengthened also
in the countries in transition during the 1990s. Denmark, Finland, Germany (West-
ern part) and Sweden had already achieved reductions in point source loading in
the 1970s and 1980s. This partly explains lower reductions from point sources in
these countries between the late 1980s and 1995.
Agricultural loading levels usually showed smaller decreases than the point
source loading. In general, decreases could be found in nitrogen, while decreases
in phosphorus remained smaller. In Finland, Germany and Sweden, no decrease
could be found in agricultural phosphorus loading, despite strong reductions in
the use of P-fertilisers. The main reason is the net surplus of phosphorus in the soildue to the high use of phosphorus fertilisers in these countries. The reduction in fertilisation has balanced the surplus to zero or close to it. This has, however, not
been sufficient to reduce soil phosphorus concentrations. There will be a long lag
before any changes can be seen in losses. With nitrogen also, some time lag is ex-
pected between the implementation of reduction measures and decreases in ni-
trogen discharges to surface water. According to national estimates, the 50 % re-
duction in agricultural nutrient loading has been reached by transition countries
except Poland. The conclusion concerning the reductions achieved is, however,
uncertain due to the lack of monitoring systems for diffuse loading in the late
1980s. However, both the drastic reduction in the use of fertilisers (80–90 %) and
decrease in agricultural production (30–40 %), as well as the increase of the green
set-aside area, supported the estimated reductions.
The comparison of national point source loading figures with available back-
ground information (statistics, reports, projects) indicate most results are reliable
enough for developing conclusions. The largest inconsistencies can be found in
the agricultural loading figures. It seems probable that estimates of agricultural
loading for countries in transition during the late 1980s can be regarded only as
tentative, as direct monitoring of agricultural loading during period is lacking.
Further, the used models and methodologies are not necessarily comparable. Thus,
regarding total national loads and reductions, figures for point and diffuse sourc-
es were assessed separately. However, at the request of the extraordinary meeting
of the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM EXTRA 99) and the decisions of HELCOM
LAND 3, this report also summarises these loads and reductions achieved.
A description of the Finnish National Programme on Water Protection for the
year 2005 is included in the present report as an example for the action plan to
further reduce nutrient loads in order to reach the 50 % (or more) target, includ-
ing EU requirements. The chapter includes descriptions of technical measures, the
economic impacts and environmental effects related to the implementation of the
In addition to the Finnish programme, the corresponding programmes of
Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden are also present-
ed and discussed.