Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
The Department of Aquatic Resources at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU Aqua) was commissioned by the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management to assess the ecological coherence of the marine protected area (MPA) network along the Swedish Baltic Sea coast, focusing on ecological connectivity and representativity, and species performing active migrations. The study also aimed to test the influence of anthropogenic pressures on connectivity and identify areas for expansion of the existing MPA network to maximise connectivity in the region. This report is the first to assess large-scale connectivity and ecological coherence of the MPA network in the Baltic Sea with a focus on coastal habitat-forming vegetation and fish species with active dispersal. Information on dispersal/migration distances was combined with species distribution models to produce connectivity maps. To align the coherence analyses with the conservation targets specified by responsible authorities, we included the nested targets for specific species ("preciserade bevarandevärden” in Swedish) listed within the Swedish framework for MPAs. Fish species like eel, salmon and trout, as well as birds and seals, which are also listed as nested targets, were not included in our analyses, since connectivity models of these long-distance migrants would be redundant as they do not affect the more small-scale connectivity patterns that are in focus in this study.
Questions this practice may help answer:
- How do anthropogenic pressures operate changes in environmental connectivity?
- How are representativity and connectivity ensured when designing MPAs?
- How is the coherence of MPAs network ensured?
In 2015, the Government of Sweden commissioned the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM) to analyse the existing marine protected area (MPA) network and develop an action plan, ensuring an effectively managed, ecologically representative, well-connected, and functional network of formal MPAs. These should cover at least 10% of Swedish marine waters by 2020. Recently, this goal was increased when the EU Commission committed to protect 30% of European waters by 2030 with specific objectives for a connected and ecologically coherent MPA network. To facilitate this process the Department of Aquatic Resources at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU Aqua) was assigned by SwAM to assess the ecological coherence of the MPA network along the Swedish Baltic Sea coast, with a focus on ecological connectivity, including the effects of anthropogenic pressures and suggestions for MPA network expansion in order to maximise connectivity.
Aspects / Objectives:
This report presents the findings of the prioritisation analysis and provides recommendations for responsible authorities for further expansion of the Swedish MPA network to achieve EU objectives.
This report gathers several tools and methods: the analysis was based on habitats' models, dispersal data, physical disturbance models, through modelling (connectivity models with and without pressures). The analysis provided coherence assessment, predicted change in connectivity from pressures and enabled prioritisation.
Main Outputs / Results:
This research provides the first large-scale coherence assessment including coastal habitat-forming species and species performing migration in the Baltic Sea.
This practice focuses on the Swedish coastal environment. Nevertheless, methodology implemented through this research could inspire similar approaches in other countries/sea basins.
The report has been produced on behalf of the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management.
Costs / Funding Source:
Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management.
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Department of Aquatic Resources