The CHARM project will develop recommendations on typology, reference conditions and monitoring strategies for implementing the EC Water Framework Directive in the coastal zone of the Baltic Sea.
The project is sponsored by the European Commission and coordinated by the National Environmental Research Institute, Department of Marine Ecology in Denmark and project participants are from research institutions in all countries around the Baltic Sea except for Russia.
The project will run for three years starting January 2002.
Problems to be solved
CHARM has been developed to provide a scientific foundation for fulfilling the requirements of the EC Water Framework Directive (WFD) in Baltic coastal waters. The study will provide decision-makers with an internationally uniform system to identify appropriate type areas and reference conditions (required in the EC Water Framework Directive (WFD)) for the Baltic ecoregion based on a sound scientific foundation.
The results of the study will further be used to identify the degree of deviation from ideal reference conditions and the likely response of Baltic coastal ecosystems to reduced anthropogenic pollution. A key feature of this project is to ensure that the results are made available to all end-users, especially environmental decision-makers. The study is unique in that it represents the only attempt to develop type areas and reference conditions for an entire ecoregion i.e. across national borders, and we expect that it will greatly contribute to harmonise national approaches to implementing the WFD.
Scientific objectives and approach
The scientific objectives of the study are to develop a common methodology for establishing coastal types in the Baltic Sea by identifying the key factors triggering ecosystem alteration and their relative importance and key indicators for ecosystem functioning in relation to alteration of the coastal ecosystems.
In addition, quantitative ecological relationships and empirical models that describe the relationship between anthropogenic pressure and key indicators in the coastal zone and ecological reference conditions for Baltic coastal water bodies will be developed.
The WFD requires that the ecological state of all coastal waters is quantified by first identifying appropriate type areas (typology) and for each of the type areas establish reference conditions, corresponding to pristine conditions, for different quality elements. The ecological state of each parameter is referenced to the pristine condition.
The Baltic Sea has, however, been strongly affected by anthropogenic activities such as nutrient loading, pollution and mechanical impact during the history of human occupation. Consequently pristine reference conditions cannot be identified and measured directly in this region.
An alternative method to derive reference conditions is to develop functional relationships that relate anthropogenic pressures to ecosystem responses. The project will result in recommendations on how to develop new monitoring strategies for Baltic Sea coastal ecosystems, based on the derived typology, reference conditions and key indicators.
The implementation of the WFD constitutes a major change in the management of coastal areas on the European level.
There is rarely co-ordination between administrative initiatives and the scientific community. CHARM will provide a matching timeline between the administrative procedures involved in implementing WFD and development of a scientific basis for the proposed changes. CHARM represents in that way a scientific answer to questions asked by decision-makers and administrators and the community added value is thus obvious.
CHARM will provide the tools to implement the WFD in a scientifically sound manner, including a set of guidelines for future monitoring in the Baltic ecoregion.
CHARM also provides a common approach for implementing the WFD in the Baltic ecoregion that can be used by member states and applicant countries, in addition to an international forum for exchange of information between different national authorities and scientific groups.