Norway reports reduced acidification in lakes

International controls to cut acidifying gases are working, but more needed says pollution authority

International controls to cut emissions of gases that contribute to acid rain have reduced the acidity of Norway's lakes. But more action is needed to protect the most sensitive waters according to the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT).

According to new data from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA), acidification in Norwegian lakes has decreased by more than a quarter since 1985. NIVA surveyed 1,500 lakes for the SFT, concluding that the greatest improvement has been in south-eastern Norway.

Despite the improvement, acidification remains a significant problem for Norway's ecosystem. Earlier this year, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research estimated that acidification had virtually wiped out the fish populations in 9,500 lakes and that a further 5,300 remained at risk.

NIVA confirmed that the battle is far from being won. "Critical loads for acidification are generally very low," it warned. Loads may continue to be exceeded in the most vulnerable regions for many years, especially in the southern skerries and the mountainous western fjord country.

In an interview with the Norwegian newspaper Arbeiderbladet the SFT's Tor Johannessen said: "Our study documents the fact that international agreements for reducing pollution do work....Now we are seeing the effect of the sulphur dioxide protocol of 1985."

He added that tougher restrictions agreed under the protocol in 1994 should more than halve sulphur dioxide precipitation by 2010 compared with 1990 levels. "But even so, acidification will continue to be a problem in many Norwegian lakes, which have so little natural resistance to it.

"We still need new international agreements to reduce sulphur and nitrogen emissions," he said, pointing out that: "Norwegian emissions are responsible for only three per cent of sulphur precipitation in Norwegian lakes."

Mr Johannessen told ENDS Daily that the SFT would publish a more wide-ranging survey of acidification later this year. In addition to Norway, the survey will cover Sweden, Finland, the Kola Peninsula, Russian Karelia, Scotland and Wales. He said he expected to see similar improvements throughout most of this region, "allowing for differences in the natural background conditions".

Follow Up:
Norwegian Pollution Control Authority, tel: +47 22 57 34 00.

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