REFINE – Improved assessment of climate impact and eutrophication in arctic lakes

Last changed: 16 January 2024
Lakes in the mountains, photo.

The REFINE-project focuses on the ongoing rapid changes that occur in the oligotrophic clearwater bodies in the Arctic/alpine ecoregion of Sweden.

Arctic ecosystems are sensitive and therefore particularly affected by the joint effects of climate change and anthropogenic pressures from activities such as hydropower, aquaculture and tourism. Current criteria for ecological status assessment, as well as other decision-support tools, have obvious shortcomings when applied to arctic waters. These shortcomings lead to erroneous status classifications and are a drawback for the evidence-based authorizing of permits for human activities that affect water quality.


REFINE addresses the cumulative effects of changes in landscape processes caused by climate change and point source pollution on nutrient loadings to oligotrophic water bodies.

Specific objectives are to:

  • assess to what extent the documented, widespread declines in phosphorus in oligotrophic clearwater lakes and rivers since the mid-1980s can be attributed to climate-induced landscape vegetation change;
  • provide a better understanding of the nutrient dynamics in lakes;
  • develop modelling approaches for nutrient source apportionment that incorporate this knowledge and that can be used in decision-making;
  • investigate potential tipping points at which lakes will transform into alternative states;
  • synthesize new and existing knowledge in order to provide input to future revisions of assessment criteria for eutrophication and oligotrophication of Arctic/alpine lakes.


In REFINE existing data from freshwater monitoring and information derived from remote sensing as well as soil- and GIS-databases will be used. In addition, directed studies will be performed along a nutrient gradient of Arctic/alpine lakes to better understand in-lake phosphorus and nitrogen dynamics, the fate of phosphorus in lakes, and the occurrence of nitrogen limitation in benthic and pelagic algae assemblages.


REFINE will work particularly close with the county administrative boards of the three northernmost counties regarding selection of study sites and scenarios in our modelling approaches. This guarantees that local knowledge and the specific needs of decision-makers are an integral part of the project. In addition, the project has a reference group , consisting of representatives from e.g. tourist organizations, hydropower companies and the Swedish Energy Agency.

Participants from the department


REFINE is funded by the Swedish EPA during 2020–2024.