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Protecting the oceans – Protecting and sustainably using oceans and marine resources

Indicator 14.1.a: Nitrogen inputs via the inflows into the North and Baltic Seas

SDG-14.1.1

aa) Baltic Weathersymbol

(Evaluation of the year 2019 as reporting year from indicator report 2021)

ab) North Sea Weathersymbol

(Evaluation of the year 2017 as reporting year from indicator report 2021)

Selection

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This overview includes additional information on the indicators presented above, such as a brief definition of the indicator and a description of the politically determined target value, as well as the political intention for selecting the indicator.

Definition of indicators (Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy)

The indicators show the five-year moving average, weighted for discharge volume, of nitrogen (N) concentrations in milligrams (mg) per litre (l) of water discharging from rivers to the North and Baltic Seas.

Target and intention of the German Government (Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy)

High concentrations of nitrogen in the seas can lead to eutrophication effects such as oxygen depletion and the subsequent loss of biodiversity and destruction of fishing grounds. Nitrogen inputs should therefore be below 2.8 mg of nitrogen per litre of discharge for rivers flowing into the North Sea and below 2.6 mg per litre for the rivers flowing into the Baltic Sea. This aligns with the management targets of the Ordinance on the Protection of Surface Waters (Oberflächengewässerverordnung), which were agreed in implementation of the Water Framework Directive, as well as with those of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Baltic Sea Action Plan.

Data state

The data published in the indicator report 2021 is as of 31.12.2020. The data shown on the DNS-Online-Platform is updated regularly, so that more current data may be available online than published in the indicator report 2021.

Last modification of code (data) 2021-06-30: see changes on GitHub opens in a new window
Last modification of code (text) 2021-09-10: see changes on GitHub opens in a new window

Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy

One of the main causes of nitrogen inputs reaching the North and Baltic Seas via inflows is nitrogen surplus in agriculture, which is measured in indicator 2.1.a. Like nitrogen, phosphorus also leads to eutrophication. Phosphorus pollution in rivers is examined separately, in indicator 6.1.a.

The calculations for this indicator use monitoring data on nitrogen concentrations and on the discharge volumes of small and major rivers flowing into the North and Baltic Seas, which the Federal Environment Agency collates as reported by the Länder and by river basin commissions. Data are also included for smaller rivers which do not flow directly into the North or Baltic Sea but are tributaries to larger rivers. In these cases, the data for each river are taken from its last monitoring site before the confluence. The Rhine is also included in the figures, even though its estuary is not in Germany. The data for the Rhine were recorded at the point where it leaves Germany (monitoring site at Bimmen, Kleve).

The nitrogen concentrations for each river are weighted for discharge volume, so that major rivers which discharge large qualities of water have a greater influence on the average that smaller ones. To prevent the graph being distorted by single extreme events like floods or droughts, which can result in anomalously very high or very low nitrogen inputs, the values are depicted as a five-year moving average.

The average nitrogen concentration for all North and Baltic Sea inflows, weighted for discharge volume, has followed a downward trend since the beginning of the time series, with the reduction in concentration more marked for the North Sea than the Baltic. The 2013-2017 average for the North Sea inflows was a concentration of 3.0 mg/l. For rivers flowing into the Baltic Sea, the average concentration for 2015-2019 was 3.2 mg/l. To achieve good quality, as defined by the Ordinance on the Protection of Surface Waters, however, each river by itself has to meet the management target.

Of the three major inflows into the Baltic Sea, the Peene, the Trave and the Warnow, only the latter had already reached the management target by 2015-2019. Nevertheless, all three rivers showed a clear reduction in concentration across the five-year averages. That reduction was most marked in the Trave. In some of the smaller Baltic Sea inflows, concentrations of nitrogen are still several times higher than the management target, with values of up to 6.1 mg/l.

Among the North Sea inflows, only the Rhine met the management target in 2013-2017. The five-year average was on the way down for concentrations in all the major North Sea inflows. In smaller rivers flowing into the North Sea, the nitrogen concentrations in 2013-2017 ranged from 2.9 to 3.6 mg/l. In conclusion, the management targets are not being permanent and nationwide fulfilled for the North or the Baltic Sea.

This summary table illustrates the evaluations of the indicator by status of previous years. This shows whether the weather symbol for an indicator has been stable or rather volatile in the past years. (Evaluations from the indicator report 2021)

Time series 1

Indicator

14.1.aa Nitrogen input in coastal and marine waters – nitrogen input via the inflows into the Baltic Sea

Target

Adherence to good quality in accordance with the Ordinance on the Protection of Surface Waters (Oberflächengewässerver-ordnung) (annual averages for total nitro-gen in rivers flowing into the Baltic may not exceed 2.6 mg/l)

Year

2016

2017

2018

2019

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Time series 2

Indicator

14.1.ab Nitrogen input in coastal and marine waters – nitrogen input via the inflows into the North Sea

Target

Adherence to good quality in accordance with the Ordinance on the Protection of Surface Waters (annual averages for total nitrogen in rivers flowing into the North Sea may not exceed 2.8 mg/l)

Year

2014

2015

2016

2017

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