ASTRA - Developing Policies & Adaptation Strategies to Climate Change in the Baltic Sea Region

Background and Goals

The currently established consensus of the scientific community is that global warming will continue. An increase in the average global surface temperature can already be observed, and, while this trend can be reduced by decreasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, it cannot be entirely avoided. An early adaptation to the climate change can reduce the humanitarian and financial risks associated with it.? In addition, a planned adaptation can significantly increase the quality of daily life, for example, by conserving the possibilities for recreation and relaxation that already exist today and creating new ones.

The ASTRA project (a German acronym that stands for "Adaptation Strategies to Climate Changes in the Baltic Sea Region") therefore examines the possibilities for adapting to the climate change and develops adequate climate change adaptation strategies. Existing adaptation strategies and political instruments in the Baltic Sea region will be examined and a strategy paper with policy guidelines and recommendations will be created, in which adaptation strategies can be integrated.

The main objective is to assess the effects of the ongoing global change in climate in the Baltic region and to develop strategies for dealing with the climate change. This will be done in the full awareness that the medium-to long-term adaptation strategies depend on the support of decision makers and stakeholders at a regional and local level. The objectives of the adaptation studies are:

  • To consolidate existing adaptation strategies,
  • To research and support workable adaptation measures for the future at the local level,
  • To develop political instruments and guidelines, strategies and policies for adaptation in the Baltic Sea region and
  • To increase the risk awareness among decision makers and the general population.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany
Region of implementation (all German federal states)
  • Mecklenburg Western Pomerania
  • Schleswig-Holstein
Natural spatial classification
  • coasts: North Sea-/Baltic Sea coasts
  • North-East German lowland

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

The ASTRA project uses the climate models CSIRO2, HadCM3, PCM, and CLIMBER together with the IPCC emission scenarios (SRES) A1B, A2 and B1. Data for creating maps is made available by the Data Distribution Centre (DDC) of the IPCC (2007). The scientific studies have shown a general trend towards rising average temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns for the Baltic Sea region.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Altered rainfall patterns
  • Higher average temperatures
  • Sea level rise und storm surges
  • Extreme precipitation (incl. hail, snow)

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

In the Baltic Sea region there is a trend towards a rise in the mean temperature and a change in the precipitation patterns. The Baltic Sea region therefore faces different regional and seasonal challenges, such as the level of coastal protection that will be needed in the future, and how to deal with severe flooding events or water shortages.

The climate effects considered include, for example, droughts and forest fires as a result of extreme temperatures, storm surges and floods resulting from winter storms and changes in the precipitation patterns in river basins, changes in surface run-offs and nutrient loads. This is associated with effects on primary production in the inner and outer coastal waters. Depending on the river system and the characteristics of the transformer function of the estuary or the internal coastal waters, this can have different effects on the coastal zone, such as for example an increase in the occurrences of blue-green algae bloom along the the coast of the southern Baltic Sea during the summer months, due to changing nutrient loads. Overall, a cross-sectoral analysis of the climate effects will be carried out.

Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances

Approach and results 

The analysis of current and future vulnerability is the basis for the development of adequate climate change adaptation strategies. It is important to get an overview of the most vulnerable sectors and regions. The concept of vulnerability used in the project does not only include the level of exposure to natural hazards, but also the sensitivity of society towards them, which is, for example, defined by insufficient precautions or an inadequate capacity to react. Also, some groups of society are more vulnerable than others (e.g. due to age disabilities or health problems).

The sensitivity of society and the natural systems is part of the vulnerability concept. The waterbodies examined have a relatively low resilience.

An adaptive capacity and an institutional readiness to deal with the climate change are part of the vulnerability concept.

Urgency and priorization of adaptation needs 

The climate effects are in direct conflict with economic interests in the coastal zone, so that there is an urgent need for action and investigation here.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

The approaches to climate protection and adaptation to climate effects should be regarded as complementary. The more successfully both paths are followed, the lower the risks of the climate change will be for society. Adapting to the effects of the climate change has only recently found its way onto the political agenda, and a survey has shown that there only few national initiatives or sectoral programmes exist. According to the latest expectations regarding the ongoing change in the climate, adaptation should become an integral part of procedures for ensuring sustainable future development.

The recommendations for decision-makers include:

1. Adaptation is a cross-cutting issue that must be addressed by society as a whole. The public sector plays a central role in the complex process of adaptation to the climate change.

2. Integration of adaptation: Adapting to the effects of the climate change should not be construed as a separate unit. Rather, various policy fields should be examined to determine that they are "climate change proof" (e.g. zoning plans or cost-benefit analyses for investments).

3. Adaptation strategies must be developed gradually. Analyses of current and future vulnerability, as well as existing approaches, are the basis for the development of adequate climate change adaptation strategies. For these strategies, different options need to be considered to find the best solution. Evaluation and monitoring should be provided to verify the effectiveness of the measures and to allow follow-up control.

4. Adaptation and climate protection go hand in hand: Decision-makers should aim to take both ways into account in different policy areas.

5. The public sector must be involved at all levels: EU, Baltic Sea region, national and district level, as well as at regional and local level.

Time horizon
  • 2071–2100 (far future)
More time information and explanations 

Adaptation measures are considered in connection with the planning time horizons and economic activities in different sectors. From this, it is clear that the lifespan of infrastructures and business plans is several decades, so that planning processes for adaptation must therefore start as early as possible.

Conflicts / synergies / sustainability 

Climate change effects in coastal ecosystems (e.g. toxic blue-green algae blooms due to changes in nutrient loads) lead to conflicts with tourism, which is an important economic sector in the coastal regions. Sustainable development requires an early consideration of the potential climate change effects (e.g. sea-level rise) in the planning processes, to avoid high costs in the future.


Funding / Financing 

co-financed by the European Union, European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), in the framework of the Interreg IIIB Programme, Baltic Sea Region (BSR)

Project management 

Geological Survey of Finland


Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research (case study in estuary region of river Oder - project IKZM-Oder);

in total 18 partners making up the innermost project group (SEAREG follow-on project)


Geological Survey of Finland
Betonimiehenkuja 4
FI-02151 Espoo

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Fields of action:
 agriculture  building sector  coastal and marine protection  energy sector  spatial, regional and urban land use planning  tourism industry  transport, transport infrastructure  water regime, water management