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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Current status, advancements and development needs of geospatial decision support tools for marine spatial planning in European seas

Depellegrin, Daniel; Hansen, Henning Sten; Schroder, Lise; Bergstrom, Lena; Romagnoni, Giovanni; Steenbeek, Jeroen; Goncalves, Magali; Carneiro, Goncalo; Hammar, Linus; Palsson, Jonas; Crona, Jan Schmidtbauer; Hume, Duncan; Kotta, Jonne; Fetissov, Mihhail; Milos, Andzej; Kaitaranta, Joni; Menegon, Stefano


The implementation of marine spatial plans as required by the Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) of the European Union (EU) poses novel demands for the development of decision support tools (DST). One fundamental aspect is the need for tools to guide decisions about the allocation of human activities at sea in ways that are ecosystem-based and lead to sustainable use of resources. The MSP Directive was the main driver behind the development of spatial and non-spatial DSTs for the analysis of marine and coastal areas across European seas. In this research we develop an analytical framework designed by DST software developers and managers for the analysis of six DSTs supporting MSP in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. The framework compares the main conceptual, technical and practical aspects, by which these DSTs contribute to advancing the MSP knowledge base and identified future needs for the development of the tools. Results show that all of the studied DSTs include elements to support ecosystem-based management at different geographical scales (from national to macro-regional), relying on cumulative effects assessment and functionalities to facilitate communication at the science-policy interface. Based on our synthesis we propose a set of recommendations for knowledge exchange in relation to further DST developments, mechanisms for sharing experience among the user-developer community, and actions to increase the effectiveness of the DSTs in MSP processes.


Decision support instruments; Geospatial tools; Maritime spatial planning; Ecosystem-based management; Cumulative effects assessment

Published in

Ocean and Coastal Management
2021, Volume: 209, article number: 105644

    Associated SLU-program

    Coastal and sea areas

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG14 Life below water

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Fish and Aquacultural Science
    Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)