“Lakes connect” – How to reduce the impact of tourism on lakes?

Lakes connect

Lakes connect is implemented within the framework of the Interreg Baltic Sea Region program. This is a small project responding to the big challenge of protecting lakes heavily used for tourism. Its goal is to establish cooperation between various organizations working to improve lake water quality in tourist regions. Lakesconnect brings together representatives of science, NGOs and authorities at different levels of governance from the three Baltic countries of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

An important goal of the project is to create a network of communication between entities interested in solutions to reduce the impact of tourism on inland water quality and based on scientific knowledge. A key task is to build trust between different organizations to raise public awareness of lake pollution. As part of the project, the research units will conduct pilot water quality studies of selected water bodies and a preliminary inventory of pollution sources. It is also planned to organize a series of meetings and training sessions to synergize scientific knowledge with knowledge of real problems of local communities.

Who are we?

The Lakes connect project involves five partners. Poland’s leading representative is the Center for Biological and Chemical Sciences at the University of Warsaw (CNBCh UW), whose mission is to support knowledge and technology transfer, among other things. To the economy. The CNBCh UW is represented by two teams: the Analytical Center of Expertise (ACE) and the Department of Hydrobiology (Department of Biology). The former has advanced measurement techniques applicable to the study of processes occurring both in living organisms and in samples of various characteristics, including environmental or clinical. Experience in conducting scientific research in the field of chemical analytics is evident in the large body of publications, which also testifies to the dissemination of work results. The Department of Hydrobiology, among its diverse research problems, has experience in water quality monitoring and lake restoration.

Zdjecie grupowe Lakes connect 1
"Lakes connect" - How to reduce the impact of tourism on lakes? 1

The Latvian partner, the Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology, is an institute engaged in basic and applied research on ecology and environmental problems in the Baltic Sea and freshwater ecosystems. He has a wide range of expertise, including monitoring of the marine environment, seasonal cycles of saltwater plankton and benthic communities, invasive species, remote sensing ecotoxicology, pollution (including microplastics).

The Lithuanian partner, the Telšiai Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Crafts, is the institution responsible for raising the awareness of decision-makers in the context of environmental pollution. The Chamber’s staff has knowledge and experience in the field of microplastic pollution and the use of potential gained during the implementation of the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Fanplesstic-Sea project. The Lithuanian Chamber of Commerce has a well-developed network of cooperation with businesses, government institutions, educational institutions and NGOs.

The Lakes connect project also involves two entities representing local authorities, which are also the target group: Foundation for the Protection of the Great Masurian Lakes (Poland) and Gulbene Municipality (Latvia). The Foundation is a non-governmental organization working for and on behalf of local communities. It brings together 23 cities and municipalities from the region. Gulbene Municipality is located in the northeastern part of Latvia and includes 13 villages and the administrative territory of the city of Gulbene. The tasks of local authorities are mainly to cooperate with scientists in the field of lake pollution, to identify current problems in the field of water pollution, to exchange good practices between countries in the field of cooperation between local authorities and the scientific community, and to share knowledge.

The Lakes connect project is supported by affiliated organizations, which are mainly representatives of local and national authorities, including the Telše region municipality in Lithuania and the Gulbene Municipality Agency “Gulbene Tourism and Cultural Heritage Center” in Latvia, the Mikolajki Town and Municipality Office and the Ministry of Climate and Environment in Poland.

International significance of the Lakes connect project

Most of the lakes located in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia (including those selected for study as part of the Lakes connect project) are of glacial origin and are in a similar geophysical location, close to the Baltic Sea. These lakes have similar recreational qualities, so they are subject to similar environmental pressures from people. Individual country players, as a result of insufficient knowledge and the availability of systemic solutions, are unable to exert sufficient pressure to implement tourism management in an environmentally friendly manner.

Given the differences in the functioning and nature of cooperation between research institutions and local authorities in different countries, including the identification of microplastic and derivative pollution of lakes from tourism in the broadest sense, international cooperation and exchange of experiences are so valuable. The joint activities of this project will provide opportunities to learn from other regions experiencing similar challenges. This will prevent duplication of efforts and optimize costs, and is essential to address common problems and raise the level of lake water management in tourist regions. Identified problems in raising awareness, among others. on microplastic pollution in lakes, may also be useful for other European countries with similar lake characteristics, such as Finland.

Sustainable water resources

Lakes connect is implemented within the framework of priority actions for sustainable waters, that is, it supports work directed at improving the region’s resources and managing them more sustainably. The project engages authorities and local communities to introduce good practices to prevent hazardous substances from being released into the water and seeks solutions to protect lakes.

Division of roles

The Lakes connect project has teams that are assigned specific roles and tasks to perform.

  • The first group is made up of local authorities from the partner countries and other countries around the Baltic Sea, ensuring that the authorities are involved in local and international cooperation and exchange of experience.
  • The second group are NGOs that operate near lakes from the Baltic region. Their role is to share information on working with other entities to implement plans related to lake protection.
  • The third group is made up of higher education units and research institutions from various countries in the Baltic Basin. Their role is to share information on opportunities to work with the public sector and authorities to use research results to support conservation and raise awareness of water conservation.
  • The last group is national public authorities, such as. Ministry of Climate and Environment, whose role is to share experience and knowledge in environmental management on a national scale.

Project objectives

The Lakes connect project pursues several goals, the most important of which are:

1 To createa model for transnational cooperation between local authorities to improve the degree of lake protection. The project will analyze the problem of pollution of lakes by tourists (including microplastics) and the impact of tourism on their condition. We plan to encourage local authorities from partner countries to share their experience and to take steps aimed at developing a model for cooperation between local governments from different countries to protect lakes. One of the activities undertaken in this regard was a conference organized by the Foundation for the Protection of the Great Masurian Lakes, entitled “The Great Mazurian Lakes. “The impact of various types of pollution on the cleanliness of lakes” (February 27 this year at Ekomarin in Gizycko). It was attended by representatives of local government authorities and the research community.

2 Create a communication center for entities interested in lake conservation. The activity includes the creation of a discussion platform, exchange of policy ideas to address microplastic water pollution, as well as participation in conferences and media events. National and regional stakeholder communication platforms will be linked, building on the international cooperation model. One of the most important activities within this framework is the creation of a public database of potential project stakeholders from all partner countries, coordinated by the Telša Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Crafts. The interactive stakeholder map will be available as an overlay on Google maps with instructions for use in the form of a video on the YouTube platform.

At the end of the Lakes connect project, we are planning a conference to summarize the achievements, which will be attended by project partners, affiliated organizations and representatives of the target groups.

3. Raise knowledge and awareness of lake pollution. Various target groups will be involved in its implementation through a series of activities, such as outdoor events with thematic workshops, joint water sampling in the field, online webinars, awareness campaigns, poster installations and distribution of visual and textual materials. We will use the website and social media to communicate and share information about the Lakes connect project in Poland and partner countries. The goal of these activities is to increase the visibility and relevance of the project to selected target groups, as well as education.

An example was the class held in February this year. for students of Chocimska High School in Warsaw, as well as students of Ogre State Gymnasium and Erasmus+ students from Spain, who in March this year. visited the Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology to learn about the work of the Marine Monitoring Department.

4 Pilot study of the impact of tourism on lake water pollution. As part of this objective, direct water sampling of selected lakes in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania is planned. The presence of microplastic particles in the water and in the coastal sediments and deepest places in the lake will be analyzed, as well as the nitrogen and phosphorus content. Sampling will be done three times: before the summer season, in the summer and in the fall, after the tourist season ends. The pilot study is being conducted by the University of Warsaw and the Gulbene Municipality and the Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology, while the Telše Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Crafts and the Foundation for the Protection of the Great Masurian Lakes are accompanying the partners in the above activities.

The results will be correlated with data on tourist traffic affecting the lake, such as the intensity of arrivals in the area. Based on the results of the research and international exchange of experience, recommendations will be developed for improving lake water quality, including education, tourism and law. As a result, there will be green concepts for municipalities in lake protection, which aim to identify and manage the pollution problem in cooperation with various institutions. It also aims to develop cooperation between scientists and the government, the flow of information on lake pollution and the development of innovative methods of protecting them.

The first round of sampling of the selected lakes has already taken place. For Latvia, these are lakes Galgauskas (control), Stāmerienes, and Pinteļa. For Lithuania – Germantas (control), Lukstas and Mastis, and for Poland – Krzywa Kuta (control), Labap and Jagodne.

5. exchange of knowledge and experience on the impact of tourism on lake pollution. In order to raise awareness about the role of cooperation in solving lake pollution problems, a training system linking scientists and local authorities will take place. The trainings will be promoted through existing stakeholder networks and on the websites of research units, local authorities, as well as on the Lakes connect project website and social media. We will also introduce cross-border cooperation, enabling the exchange of knowledge and solutions among the Baltic countries.

The training program for scientists and local authorities will focus on current challenges facing the region and enable rapid response to urgent problems. This will make researchers and local authorities better prepared to work together.

During the first period of the Lakes connect project, many of the planned activities were carried out. Among other things, the first round of pilot studies took place, green concepts operating in the context of lake protection in partner countries were reviewed, and a summary was prepared. Numerous partner meetings were also held, including with target groups. We have established cooperation with EUSBR PA Tourist (European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region Policy Area in the field of tourism) with similar goals to our activities.

Logo Lakes connect
"Lakes connect" - How to reduce the impact of tourism on lakes? 2

The Lakes connect project is co-financed by the Baltic Sea Region Interreg Program 2021 – 2027 (Priority 2. Societies using water prudently, project number #S008). Our activity can be followed on the website of the Interreg Batic Sea Region Lakes connect program.

Project team:
Ewa Babkiewicz, Ewa Bulska, Eliza Kurek, Magdalena Michalska-Kacymirow, Edyta Wozniak-Dudzinska
Center for Biological and Chemical Sciences, University of Warsaw
Department of Hydrobiology, Institute of Functional Biology and Ecology, Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw

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