Development of a webGIS Application to Assess Conflicting Activities in the Framework of Marine Spatial Planning

Journal of Marine Science and Engineering


Marine spatial planning (MSP) has been established as the appropriate policy framework to study and resolve conflicts that arise among various activities. A pre-requisite for the successful implementation of MSP is the availability of efficient tools to support decision-makers and enhance stakeholders’ engagement. In this paper, a webGIS application is proposed that is able to assess the intensity of conflicts among marine activities; the area of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea was used as a case study. The webGIS application allows the visualization of existing activities, the delineation of conflicting activities, the detection of areas where multiple conflicts co-exist, and the delineation of areas of conflicts based on specific criteria. The webGIS application is available via a user-friendly interface as well as allowing interaction with users by providing them the opportunity to comment on the results and/or exchange ideas with other users of various groups; therefore, the participatory process, a creative stage in MSP, is further supported. The usefulness of such tools in coastal and marine planning and the decision-making process are further discussed.

Sea Basin(s): 
March 2022
Application in MSP: 
Applied in an MSP process
Nature protection
Submarine cables and pipelines
Under water cultural heritage
Type of Issue: 
Coexistence of uses
Economic aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Analyse spatial aspects
Develop and implement plan
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Common Fisheries Policy
Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Questions this practice may help answer:

How can the use of this webGIS application support the implementation of MSP?

Implementation Context:

Cyclades maritime area is characterised by a high density of 14 different maritime economic activities. Hence, conflicting use of space appears to be a widespread issue which should be addressed during the MSP process.

Aspects / Objectives:

A webGIS application is presented with the aim of supporting MSP to visualise conflicts in marine areas and to assess their intensity based on specific criteria.


Datasets have been gathered from different sources with open access data (i.e.,, EMODnet, etc.), as well as from several public and private services. A table of conflicting activities based on the existing European/Greek legislation and local/regional regulations has been established. Hence, 43 types of conflict have been detected in the areas. Datasets have been processed and results are presented, showcasing the following:

  • Activities taking place and where they are occuring
  • Areas where conflicting activities are detected
  • Areas where two specific conflicts co-exist
  • Areas where more than a specific number of conflicts co-exist
  • Areas where conflicts exist within a specific zone around a point of interest
  • Areas where conflicts exist within a zone around the coastline
  • Areas of conflict that are larger than a specific extent
  • Extent of all of the above delineated areas.

Main Outputs / Results:

Several GIS (Geographic Information System) tools have been developed to detect and display areas of conflict, and their characteristics in a user-friendly way, strongly facilitating the information handling by users. The majority of the identified conflicts  relate to fishing activities. The webGIS application is now open and fully operational.

The high intensity of conflicting activities does not necessarily appear to be related to the level of tourism development in the neighbouring islands but to the specific activities that are taking place in the area and the existence, or not, of marine protected areas and infrastructures. Most of the identified conflicts are related to fishing activities, which is explained by their incompatibility or conditional compatibility with most of the other activities in the study area of Cyclades.

This webGIS application can significantly contribute to the MSP process for the following reasons:

  • Access is free to multiple users such as decision-makers, scientists, stakeholders, and the public.
  • There is no need to buy, download or install any special software.
  • Experience In using any specialised GIS software is not required.
  • Visualisation of results is simple and comprehensible
  • The webGIS application may be visible by multiple users simultaneously
  • Operation of the webGIS application is fully controlled.
  • The webGIS application is flexible and can be adapted to different study areas
  • A link allows users to send comments regarding the results of the application and/or make suggestions for further study or analysis

The webGIS application can be used to facilitate the implementation of MSPD in EU MS by enhancing the participatory process in an environment delimited by decision makers, hence reducing the risks of consultation process failing. The proposed webGIS application could be integrated into an already available decision support system, contributing to the study of conflicts and their intensity, and supporting coastal management in combination with other methods. In conclusion, the proposed webGIS application is considered to be a useful tool in the process of MSP and coastal management since it could have a significant contribution to the settlement of conflicts and the engagement of stakeholders and the public through a participatory process.


This webGIS application can be used for MSP in other areas if data are available to perform similar conflict intensity analyses.

Responsible Entity:

Department of Marine Sciences, School of the Environment, University of the Aegean

Costs / Funding Source:

Department of Marine Sciences, School of the Environment, University of the Aegean

Contact person:

Anastasia Patera -

Laboratory of Environmental Quality and Geospatial Applications, Department of Marine Sciences, School of the Environment, University of the Aegean, 81100 Mytilene, Lesvos, Greece; (Z.P.)