Linkage framework describing the social-ecological system for Case Study 1. Source: Gerjan Piet, WMR

Objective and research questions: The North Sea is one of the busiest seas with many (often growing or newly emerging) sectors laying a claim to a limited amount of space. The need for Integrated Assessments (IA), Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) is therefore rapidly increasing and an adequate scientific knowledge base is becoming a key requirement for more informed decision-making. In this AQUACROSS case study we therefore explicitly apply an integrated, interdisciplinary perspective when developing our knowledge base to inform EBM.

The primary aim is to improve the knowledge base available to stakeholders in order to enable a more informed decision-making process toward the achievement of the Biodiversity Strategy targets. In practice this includes several existing marine policy frameworks e.g. Habitats and Birds Directives (HD&BD), Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) or Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP). As required by the Biodiversity Strategy this knowledge base explicitly includes the provisioning of ecosystem services.

Approach: While there are many different sectors operating in the North Sea this case study focuses on those activities deemed most important i.e. fisheries because it is a significant threat to biodiversity and the emerging activity of renewable energy. Both activities also put a large claim (now or in the future) on the limited amount of space available for conservation purposes, i.e. through marine protected areas, thereby compromising the achievement of the Biodiversity Strategy targets and related policy objectives. The linkage framework developed in Work Package 4 and Work Package 5 has been used to describe the ecological system (See figure) in order to understand how this is affected by the processes taking place in the social system. 

Solutions: Within the case study it is planned to apply several methodologies to assess the performance of EBM strategies. A risk assessment approach, i.e. cumulative effects assessment (CEA), will allow an integrated assessment of all the relevant impact chains that determine the socio-ecological system. While at present only the impact of the human activities and their pressures on the state of the ecosystem (represented by the various components) can be assessed, the aim is to expand this approach such that it also includes the supply side of the ecosystem services with various more detailed and fully quantitative methods that cover only a subset of the linkage framework. For example we adopt and further develop an approach that calculates the impact of fishing through physical disturbance on the seabed habitats and another that calculates the impact of fishing through biological extraction on the state of the fish community.

Area: The case study area is determined as the “Greater North Sea” according to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) the main marine policy framework. This area is identical to the ICES ecoregion and based on the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) concept.

Lead partner organisation: Wageningen Marine Research (WMR) of Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek is leading the research in the case study.

Cooperating partner: Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) is the cooperating partner for AQUACROSS’s Case Study One: Trade-offs in ecosystem-based fisheries management in the North Sea aimed at achieving Biodiversity Strategy targets. RWS is a part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and is responsible for major water and other infrastructure, as well as environmental objectives including maintaining the ecological integrity of major lakes, rivers, estuaries, and coastal areas of the Netherlands. RWS and the case study are represented on the SPBTT by Joost Backx.

Find out more about this case study:

Trade-offs in ecosystem-based fisheries management in the North Sea aimed at achieving Biodiversity Strategy targets