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KnowSeas - Knowledge-based Sustainable Management for Europe's Seas

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Summary information

Funding:FP7 - Collaborative Research Project - Large-scale Integrating Project
Total cost:7410000
Ec contribution:5760000
Start date:2009-04-01
End date:2013-03-31
Duration:48 months
Coordinator:Tim O’Higgins (
Organisation:The Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunbeg Oban - United Kingdom
Themes:Abiotic changes; biological impacts; socio-economic consequences
Regio:Black Sea; Mediterranean Sea; Baltic Sea; North Atlantic
Keywords:Ecology; economics; governance and policy; Ecosystem Approach; sustainable development of Europe’s regional seas; spatial planning, ecosystem goods and services; policy instruments; causes and consequences of ecosystem change (including climate change); costs and benefits; institutional and social aspects
Project name:KnowSeas - Knowledge-based Sustainable Management for Europe's Seas
Project summary:Europe’s four regional seas (Baltic, Black, Mediterranean and NE Atlantic) have suffered severe environmental degradation due to human pressure. Existing measures to manage pressures have proven inadequate and the EC has responded by proposing a new policy (Maritime Strategy Blue Book) and environmental legislation (Marine Strategy Framework Directive), both currently close to adoption. These instruments rely on the Ecosystem Approach, a management paradigm that encompasses humans and the supporting ecosystem. But the science base for this approach needs strengthening and practical tools must be developed and tested for policy implementation. In particular, criteria for assessing costs and benefits of management actions are poorly developed, particularly in the complex marine environment where multiple uses and management conflicts are common.

The KnowSeas consortium will strengthen the science base for managing Europe’s seas through the practical application of systems thinking. It will work at the two scales envisaged for emergent EU policy: the Regional Sea Scale and Member State Economic Exclusive Zones (EEZs). We have developed a new approach of Decision Space Analysis to investigate mismatches of scale. Knowledge created through the FP6 European Lifestyles and Marine Ecosystems project, augmented with necessary new studies of climate effects, fisheries and maritime industries - in EEZ case studies - will provide a basis for assessing changes to natural systems and their human causes. New research will examine and model economic and social impacts of changes to ecosystem goods and services and costs and benefits of various management options available through existing and proposed policy instruments. Institutional and social analysis will determine conflicts of interest and examine governance as well as stakeholder values and perceptions. Our research will develop and test an assessment toolbox through regional liaison groups and a multisectoral Project Advisory Board.

The overall objective of the project is to provide a comprehensive scientific knowledge base and practical guidance for the application of the Ecosystem Approach to the sustainable development of Europe’s regional seas. This will increase the evidence base available for decision makers and facilitate the practical implementation of the Ecosystem Approach, currently seen by some stakeholders as confusing and nebulous. It will be delivered through a series of specific sub-objectives that lead to a scientifically based suite of tools to assist policy makers and regulators with the practical application of the Ecosystem Approach. It is also expected to deliver high quality scientific outputs that advance our understanding of coupled social and ecological systems.