European seas have for a long time been harmed by human activities. Over-fishing, extensive use of fertilisers and insufficient wastewater treatment are only a few of the pressures that are causing damage to the marine environment and ecosystems. In 2008 the European Union adopted the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) with the aim of improving the environmental health of Europe’s regional seas by 2020, setting out deadlines and targets for EU member states. According to the MSFD, managing the marine environment should include the introduction of an “Ecosystem Approach”. This concept, however, has not been adequately defined until now.
The KnowSeas project (Knowledge-based Sustainable Management for Europe’s Seas) has been funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission (FP7), a grant funding programme. The main activities within the project include defining the Ecosystems Approach and describing the challenges when implementing it across European seas. As the marine system ecosystem is closely linked to human activities, the Ecosystem Approach need to take both ecological and human aspects into consideration. It is a resource-planning and management approach recognizing the connections between land, air and water and all living things, including humans, their activities and their institutions. Considering the all-embracing nature of this concept, the project aims to deliver a systems approach integrating natural and social science and delivering the knowledge base to support management for sustainable seas.
A networking methodology has been applied to include multiple research fields and multidisciplinary thinking as the Ecosystems Approach will best be understood when involving scientists from different backgrounds. The project involves 32 partners from 15 countries and is coordinated by the Scottish Association for marine science (SAMS), United Kingdom. One part of the work is focusing on translating ecological services to monetary value through systems analysis: Ecologists are using existing modelling methods to analyse the systems and to foresee future outputs from the marine environments. Additionally, the economic values of these outputs are evaluated by economists. Another focus is integration, implementing the Ecosystems Approach with respect to the cultural differences in the European countries. This is achieved through stakeholder analysis, investigating the differences in attitudes and expectations towards the seas.
Four case studies related to regional seas (the North East Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea) are performed with support from experts with experience from the region. In the case studies, a number of key issues are investigated and the result from the studies will provide information on how EU member states are implementing the MSFD. The on-going project is coming to an end in 2013 and is affiliated with the LOICZ (Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone) project and the programme LWEC (Living with Environmental Change). Its predecessor was the European Commission FP6 project ELME (European Lifestyles and Marine Ecosystems), and the framework from the ELME project is now being employed in the present one.
A communication team is working on disseminating the results from the project. Some of the results are presented as policy briefs, targeting policy makers at all levels and other stakeholders within the field. Also, there will be a web-based toolbox and guidelines in nine different areas, aiming to improve stakeholder analysis. Preferably, these will all be embedded in the future
strategic planning process of policy makers, adding to the number of damage-reducing techniques in the policy area. The final results from the project have not yet been presented and the technology readiness level is therefore estimated to be 6 on the TRL scale, according to the scope of the seventh framework programme, which provides public grant partial funding for R&D.