Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Lost in space and time? A conceptual framework to harmonise data for marine spatial planning

International Journal of Spatial Data Infrastructures Research, 2019, Vol14, 108-132 


This paper proposes a conceptual framework to categorise the spatial and temporal dimensions of data used in MSP and introduces a method to jointly manage non-spatial information and spatial data in the same geographic information system (GIS). Harmonisation of data has been identified as a challenge for Marine Spatial Planning and various initiatives have been undertaken in this regard at the European and global level (EMODnet, International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange program, etc). Despite these efforts, the data used in spatial planning remain confined to the national level, with each country using its own set of indicators. The proposed framework provides effective steps towards a more coherent data management and subsequently may foster better use of information in MSP processes.

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


  • What kind of data is used in the implementation of marine spatial planning?
  • Why is data harmonisation essential for an efficient marine spatial planning? 
  • How can data be managed to facilitate cross border approaches?


The study was developed within the BASMATI-BONUS project (Baltic Sea Maritime Spatial Planning for Sustainable Ecosystem Services), which aimed at developing new integrated and innovative solutions for MSP in the Baltic Sea Region.  


The objective of the study was to develop a conceptual data framework for a more pragmatic and holistic approach to MSP, thus facilitating the use of data in cross-border approaches. The framework was based on the FAIR data principles (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, Reusability).


The study implied the data collection  is not always processed together in a planning process, including information related to the vertical and horizontal dimensions of maritime space, and temporality of activities. The framework also included the use of non-spatial data. 


The study underlines that the consideration of different types of data (non-spatial, metadata, as well as data linked to vertical, horizontal and temporal dimensions) allows policymakers to benefit from the comprehensive information relating to the activities in the maritime space. 

It shows how intuitive categories and simple wording make data more accessible and understandable for all types of stakeholders and facilitate the comparison of data between several countries.


Even though the project was developed in the Baltic Sea Region, this conceptual framework can be relevant to any MSP process.

Responsible Entity: 

Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (Germany) 

University of Turku (Finland) 

Aalborg University, Danemark 

Funding Source: 

The BONUS-BASMATI project has been funded by the European Union, Innovation Fund Denmark, Swedish Research Council Formas, Academy of Dinland, and Latvian Ministry of Education and Science and Research centre. This work has also been partly funded by MSP-TRANS Project of the Federal Ministry for the Environment Nature, Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany.  

Contact person:

Wanda Holzhüter 

Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (Germany) 

Email: (wanda[dot]holzhueter[at]io-warnemuende[dot]de)