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Mapping the marine landscape


This report summaries the work related to marine landscape and habitat mapping published in 17 independent BALANCE Interim Reports. The BALANCE mapping efforts has operated at two scales:

1) the Regional Sea scale 

2) the local or national scale.

The Baltic Sea marine landscapes have been developed for the entire Baltic Sea, Kattegat and Skagerrak, and provide a broad-scale ecological map for the entire region. Such a map can be used for broad-scale spatial planning, for implementing the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan or for assessing and planning of region-wide networks of e.g. marine protected areas.

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 have been the approaches and efforts made in mapping during the BALANCE project?
  • What recommendations can be made to improve coordination on mapping in the future in the Baltic Sea Region?

Implementation Context

Part of the BALANCE activities aimed at identifying and mapping the distribution of Baltic Sea marine landscapes and habitats through the development of an agreed mapping approach.  Criteria and data requirements for the characterisation of marine landscapes and a holistic approach to habitat mapping has been set up and are now reviewed.

Aspects / Objectives

  • Summaries the work related to marine landscape and habitat mapping published in 17 independent BALANCE Interim Reports.
  • Inspire governments, managers and stakeholders to continue to participate in the development of systematic approach to mapping of marine landscapes and habitats in the Baltic Sea.


  • As the first step the necessary environmental parameters and data sets were selected for the identification of marine landscapes in the Baltic Sea, because the number of data sets applied influences the analysis as well as the final product.
  • The next step was to harmonise and standardise the selected individual data sets and present them in unified formats.
  • To produce the broad-scale benthic marine landscape map from a number of different sources efficiently raster map algebra in a GIS were used.
  • Subdivision of the physio-chemical parameters into sensible, ecologically relevant categories.
  • This report analyses the methods used and develops recommendations for the future.

Main Outputs / Results

A total of 21 recommendations have been made which can be found in the report. Here follows a short summary of these recommendations on specific topics:

Marine information

  • All marine environmental data collected with public funds, EU and national, should be held electronically with Baltic-wide agreed formats and standards and placed in easily accessible public domains within specified timescales.
  • EU structural funds require that any data collected or data layers produced during an EU funded project should be published in usable formats (e.g. GIS shape files) before the end of a project through data portal.
  • All marine environmental data collected by private bodies for e.g. Environmental Impact Assessments could be placed within the public domain
  • The establishment of a standardised transnational web-based electronic map or chart data portal within the public domain extending seamlessly across the Baltic Sea and Kattegat.
  • A Baltic-wide marine information network based on harmonisation of environmental data and their origin (who, what, where, when etc.) should be established.
  • A data management plan should be developed and implemented by a relevant transnational organisation.

Marine landscape mapping

  • The methodology behind the marine landscapes should be further developed and refined
  • The future refinement should continue to apply a transnational and cross-sectoral approach spanning relevant scientific disciplines.
  • A process, either through specific projects or through statuary obligations, collecting Baltic-wide biological data focusing on key species and/or habitats should be established and the results placed in the public domain.
  • The identification of habitats associated with each type of marine landscape should be encouraged.
  • Tools, which improve accuracy and precision of the individual modelled environmental data layers, should be developed.
  • The development of Baltic Sea-wide datasets on environmental pressures, such as annually updated oxygen concentration maps, should be encouraged.
  • A sensitivity map associated with the individual marine landscapes should be developed.
  • The development of a coherent pelagic marine landscape map for the Baltic Sea should be strongly encouraged.
  • Future use and refinement of the marine landscape maps should strive to promote synergies and converge requirements under the proposed EU Marine Strategy Directive, the EU Water Framework Directive and EC Habitats Directive (not one nation-one approach).
  • Future refinements of the marine landscape maps should build upon transnational cooperation and coordination for the Baltic Sea (harmonisation and standardisation of individual data layers)
  • Future refinements and application should not only depend on available EU funding, but also be part of enhanced transnational cooperation on fulfilling statuary obligations between responsible national governmental agencies.
  • Institutions and personnel developing broad-scale ecological maps for one region should be encouraged to co-operate with similar initiatives in adjacent eco-regions to ensure a coherent European approach

Marine habitats

  • A European standard for marine biological surveys on littoral and sublittoral hard bottom is currently under development. Efforts should be made to enable a use of the European standard, while maintaining, to the extent possible, the time series.
  • Baltic Sea wide habitat maps should be modelled. It should be possible to model several species since they are included the national datasets.


The recommendations refer to the Baltic Sea Regional specifically and include official Baltic Sea agreements such as developed by HELCOM. However, also for other sea basins the consistency of data and maps is of importance. Recommendations are therefore partly relevant for other regions.

Costs / Funding Source

Interreg IIIB Baltic Sea Region

Responsible Entity

The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. Oester Voldgade 10, 1350 Copenhagen C, Denmark, e-mail: (geus[at]geus[dot]dk)
Phone: +45 38142000.