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GIS tools for MSP and management


This set of practical information presents GIS tools for elineation of marine and coastal biophysical properties and for identifying specific ecosystem component such, as target species and habitats. These tools cover nature conservation, the biophysical and socio-economical interests of the sea, the management through marine spatial planning and the assessment of management performance. The tools presented here are examples of the approaches and principles how these topics can be handled using GIS.

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

  • How can GIS tool be applied for in Maritime Spatial Planning processes?
  • What kind of GIS tools are useful in specific MSP related themes?

Implementation Context

Geographic Information System (GIS) can be applied in several ways in the Maritime Spatial Planning process:

  • Firstly, GIS tools can be used for delineation of features. The state of features (biogeo-physical, socio-economical and governance) in a marine area is essential knowledge in an informative MSP process, and GIS can bean efficient tool for identifying, locating and visualizing the cover and spatial distribution of resources and uses in the form of maps.
  • Secondly, GIS tools can be used as indicators for the assessment of management performance and measure the effects on given biophysical, socio-economical and governance factors, whereof the latter are the main indicators for the planning process.
  • Thirdly, GIS tools can combine several types of spatial data. The applications of GIS in marine management are tightly interconnected and can be used synergistically.

Aspects / Objectives

Present examples of approaches and principles how marine nature conservation, the biophysical and socio-economical interests of the sea, the management through marine spatial planning and the assessment of management performance, can be handled using GIS.


  • Twelve biophysical tools are described in detail as ‘recipes’, including how to delineate important habitats and species parameters.
  • Socio-economical factors are presented in seven pressure tools, and two state tools, including potential pressures such as navigational activities, fishing and coastal development.
  • One of the tools can be described as also having properties of a driving factor.
  • The socio-economic state is exemplified for recreational values.

Main Outputs / Results

The report shows the GIS Tools can be used on the following themes:

Biophysical – Species

  • Focal species abundance
  • Seabird abundance
  • Focal species distribution
  • Population structure
  • Community composition
  • Genetic diversity

Biophysical – habitats

  • Fish nursery areas
  • Suitable environmental conditions (habitats) for species
  • Distribution of three key phytobenthic species
  • Coastal lagoons and large shallow inlets & bays (1150 & 1160)
  • Habitat heterogeneity indicator


  • Interpolation of depth and elevation
  • Archipelago zonation

Socio-economical – Pressure

  • Shoreline exploitation
  • Human influence on coastal lagoons and large shallow inlets and bays
  • Communication infrastructure
  • Effects of recreational boating and fishing on sensitive habitats
  • Marine noise disturbance from vessels
  • Potential dredging sites in shallow coastal areas
  • Shoreline erosion induced by navigational activities

Socio-economical – Sate

  • Effects of marine management activities on fishing
  • Economic value of marine areas – exemplified for recreational activities

Governance – Stakeholder interaction

  • The interaction between authorities and stakeholders
  • Compliance with management plans


The tools should be seen as a first generation of descriptions how to apply spatial information. The tools can be applied for in other areas.

Costs / Funding Source

Interreg IIIB Baltic Sea Region

Responsible Entity

Metsähallitus, Ratatie 11, P.O. Box 94 , 
FI-01301 Finland Tikkurila, Vantaa, phone: +358 206 39 4000,