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Blue Corridors


This set of practical information introduces blue corridors and provides some examples and recommendations on how to work with Blue Corridors in practical marine spatial planning.

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

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What methodology can be used to develop Blue Corridors in practical marine spatial planning?
  • How can a passive dispersal along a blue corridor be modelled and how can a spawning locality within one nation’s territorial waters influence populations within another nation’s territorial waters?

Implementation Context

Several international directives and conventions call for the establishment of networks of protected areas. Most definitions on networks of protected areas include the concepts of representatively and ecological coherence. Connectivity among protected areas is an essential part of ecological coherence. Blue corridors, i.e. the routes through which different areas are connected, are essential in the network of protected areas in the sea. The BALANCE project already reviewed and discussed the literature on blue corridors in detail. This practice builds on these findings by defining practical ways for using the concept in MSP.

Aspects / Objectives

Provde examples and recommendations on how to work with the subject of Blue Corridors in practical marine spatial planning.


The report follows this outline, and for each step in the scheme, discusses possible questions, data sources and analyses.

Blue Corridors Methodology

Furthermore, a case study has been done with the aim to illustrate if it would be possible to identify specific targets for connectivity within a transnational network of marine protected areas.

Main Outputs / Results

Conclusions have been developed for the several steps as presented in the methods used.

Step 2

MPA ́s and MPA networks should have clearly formulated goals for management. If the goals are not specific enough, identify key species or groups to analyse from the connectivity point of view.

Step 3

Although detailed information on connectivity needs of species and populations often is missing, there is basic information available on the reproductive biology (larval vs. direct development) and migration ecology of many species. In situations where the area contain many species with different reproductive modes, the are several options for selecting which species to use for the connectivity analysis:

  1. The species for which the goals of the area are formulated (i.e. the decision on which species is important is made beforehand);
  2. The species which are ecologically most important (e.g. keystone or habitat-forming species);
  3. The species with the most stringent need for connectivity design (with the reasoning that if the connectivity for this species is ensured, then the connectivity for other species should be ensured too);
  4. Or just any species for which good data are available.

Step 4

This step is essential in order to formulate concrete actions. Natural and human processes may contribute to limiting the dispersal. Preferably, the consequences for the connectivity in MPA networks of any human activity or construction should be assessed.

Step 5

It is possible to model connectivity between sites by linking oceanographic models with ecological or species-specific knowledge, and thus obtain information about how well individual sites within a network are connected.

Step 6

In most ways, the knowledge, methods and regulations used to identify actions to ensure connectivity are no different than what is already used in marine environmental planning. The difference is the additional emphasis not only on effects on the area where the threat occurs, but also on effects in other areas. A combination of tools is probably the most efficient solution. This means that there is a strong need for close cooperation between different groups of managers e.g. conservation managers and resource use managers.

Step 7

The process will probably not differ in any fundamental way if the planning is for an MPA “with connectivity” (as part of a network) or for an “independent” MPA. However, some parts of the implementation, e.g. stakeholder involvement and support, may be more difficult.

Step 9

There is a cost (financial, time, credibility) to change an existing management plan, but it is a waste of resources to have a management plan or a network of marine protected areas that does not achieve the aims of their existence. For such adaptive management, the rules of how, when, and by whom the plans may be revised should be formulated in the management plan.


The focus of this practice is on the planning of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Baltic Sea but some of the ideas presented here can also be useful for other planning processes, and in other areas.

Costs / Funding Source

Interreg IIIB Baltic Sea Region

Responsible Entity

Per Nilsson, University of Gothenburg, Carl Skottsbergs gata 22 B , 413 19 Göteborg , Box 461, 405 30 Göteborg , Sweden,  phone: +46 31 786 9624, e-mail:

George Martin, Estonian Marine Institute, Mäealuse 14, 12618, Tallinn, , Eesti, phone: +372 671 8902, fax: +372 671 8900,