Long-term scenario analyses can be powerful tools to explore plausible futures of human development under changing environmental, social, and economic conditions and to evaluate implications of different approaches to reduce pollution and resource overuse. Vulnerable ecosystems like the Baltic Sea in North-Eastern Europe tend to be under pressure from multiple, interacting anthropogenic drivers both related to the local scale (e.g. land use change) and the global scale (e.g. climate change). There is currently a lack of scenarios supporting policy-making that systematically explore how global and regional developments could concurrently impact the Baltic Sea region. Here, we present five narratives for future development in the Baltic Sea region, consistent with the global Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) developed for climate research. We focus on agriculture, wastewater treatment, fisheries, shipping, and atmospheric deposition, which all represent major pressures on the Baltic Sea.
While we find strong links between the global pathways and regional pressures, we also conclude that each pathway may very well be the host of different sectoral developments, which in turn may have different impacts on the ecosystem state. The extended SSP narratives for the Baltic Sea region are intended as a description of sectoral developments at regional scale that enable detailed scenario analysis and discussions across different sectors and disciplines, but within a common context. In addition, the extended SSPs can readily be combined with climate pathways for integrated scenario analysis of regional environmental problems.