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Activity-footprints, pressures-footprints and effects-footprints – Walking the pathway to determining and managing human impacts in the sea

Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 155


Determining the overall effects of human activities on the estuaries, seas and coasts, as a precursor to marine management, requires quantifying three aspects. These are: (a) the area in which the human activities take place, (b) the area covered by the pressures generated by the activities on the prevailing habitats and species, in which pressures are defined as the mechanisms of change, and (c) the area over which any adverse effects occur. These features can be respectively termed the activities-footprints, the pressures-footprints and the effects-footprints. The latter in turn incorporates both the effects on the natural system and the effects on ecosystem services from which society extracts goods and benefits. This viewpoint article explains the rationale behind this typology and proposes definitions for each of these three types of footprints.

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Key words:

Main Outputs / Results:

  • All marine activities have an activity-footprint.
  • This results in pressures-footprints and effects-footprints.
  • These three types of footprints have been defined for the first time.
  • Quantifying the footprints has repercussions for marine governance.
  • The system proposed is also relevant for cumulative and transboundary consequences.

Contact person:

Michael Elliott: (Mike[dot]Elliott[at]hull[dot]ac[dot]uk)


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