Optimal irrigation management – the water-food-energy nexus

Biosphere for Baltic is a joint commitment initiated in June 2017 during the UN Ocean Conference. The Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) in Sweden, the Swedish National Commission of UNESCO, and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management joined forces to increase dissemination of good practices from UNESCO biosphere reserves in the Baltic Sea Region, both within and beyond the network of biosphere reserves. This joint commitment intends to contribute to raising awareness of sustainability challenges linked to the Baltic Sea, enhance the knowledge of interconnectedness between land and sea, and facilitate learning from biosphere reserves as arenas for implementing the SDGs with a multi-stakeholder approach.

Biosphere for Baltic provides a unique opportunity for UNESCO biosphere reserves around the Baltic Sea to network, to share experiences and results, and to find new opportunities for collaboration. The aim of Biosphere for Baltic is to facilitate learning and disseminate good practices from the Baltic Sea region, within and beyond the network of biosphere reserves. Also, Biosphere for Baltic highlights the contribution of biosphere reserves to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda, with particular emphasis on SDG 14 – Life Below Water.

Case study from Blekinge Archipelago:

Climate change can make up for big changes in weather types. Places that normally have regular rains can become drier or more wet depending on where they are and how these places relate to new winds, currents and sun exposure. In 2017, south Sweden suffered from an unusual drought, making ground water levels extremely low. In 2018, the month of July was the hottest recorded ever during 260 years of measurements, and impacts on the Swedish agricultural sector were severe.

The model for optimal irrigation will show how farmers may irrigate to avoid increase of nutrient infusion to the Baltic Sea during heavy rainfall. The model will also show how to use the water sources wisely if the season is dry.

In this way, the model will have economic, environmental and social benefits. Economically it will be possible to save electricity for water pumps and get an optimal growth in the crop. Environmentally, less nutrients in the sea will contribute to stop the blooming of algae and the growing dying, oxygen absent bottoms. Getting rid of algae close to the coast also has economic advantages since the archipelago in our area holds a big potential for revenue from nature and culture tourism. To use the water sources wise and to be careful with nutrients to the Baltic Sea is socially sustainable in the long run. The opposite means potential conflicts on the resources of water, both sweet and brackish.

If the model becomes realized, Blekinge Archipelago sees an opportunity to initiate a project together with farming organisations and expertise to explore what other actions could be taken to prevent nutrients to flow to the sea.


Biosphere reserves fill several important functions in the work towards SDG 14. In many of the cases, they become local-regional centres for transformation, bringing together key stakeholders and actors, and catalysing change. Biopshere for Baltic has identified three main ways in which SDG14 is
implemented by UNESCO biosphere reserves.
• Biosphere reserves inspire with good examples and empower people to contribute to change.

• Biosphere reserves have the possibility to inspire others and to strengthen cooperation between different stakeholders by including people, their thoughts and ideas. Biosphere reserves create a
neutral, inclusive and uniting arena where important sustainability challenges are highlighted and where solutions to those challenges are developed and tested in a practical context.

• Biosphere reserves have an important role to generate learning processes by communicating with stakeholders and the public WHY it is important to address certain sustainability challenges, they are science translators and link new knowledge to local place based knowledge.