Mapping of marine landscapes in the Baltic Sea


The BALANCE project outlined its approach of how the landscape of the Baltic Sea was mapped, including which seabed topographic, coastal physiographic and benthic data, secondary physical data as well as assemblages of species.

Sea Basin(s): 
Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Nature protection
Type of Issue: 
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Analyse spatial aspects
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Habitats and Birds Directive

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What kind of methodology can be used to develop seabed maps of a sea?
  • What are the seabed features of the Baltic Sea?
  • How can policymakers, scientists and environmental in the Baltic Sea region use seabed maps in different kind of processes?

Implementation Context

This practice presents the methodology applied for identifying and mapping the seabed features of the Baltic Sea. It also summarises some of the potential applications and limitations of applying the marine landscapes approach within the Baltic Sea.  The tool described is not new, but builds upon experiences made in Canada (Roff & Taylor 2000) and initiatives from the UK e.g. the Irish Sea Pilot Project (Vincent et al. 2004) and the KSeaMap (Connor et al. 2007).

Aspects / Objectives

  • Use available geological, physical, chemical and hydrographic data to identify and map broad-scale marine landscapes for the Baltic Sea based upon transnational and cross-sectoral cooperation.
  • Ecologically relevant marine landscape maps could then be applied as an ecological parameter for broad-scale marine spatial planning, thus contributing to knowledge-based management of our marine environment and the long-term goal of achieving a sustainable development within the Baltic Sea Region.
  • Identify three different kinds of broad-scale characterisations of the marine environment, though the focus of the report is on the ecological meaningful entities.


  1. The topographic features were identified using only bathymetry and sediment distribution.
  2. The physiographic features were identified based only upon the geographic layout of the shoreline
  3. Ecologically relevant entities of the Baltic Seabed were identified using environmental parameters which all have an influence upon the distribution of benthic species assemblages.

More specifically, the processes undertaken included:

  • Identification of environmental data needed for broad-scale characterisation of the seabed.
  • Identification of and accessing available data spanning the Baltic Sea.
  • Making of suitable data sharing agreements within and outside the partnership.
  • Classification of data into uniform categories and conversion to an agreed GIS format.
  • Identification of ecologically relevant categories for each environmental parameter (e.g. photic or non-photic depth) and creation of the data layer in GIS.
  • Analysis of the data to produce the classification of the seabed and the coastal zone.
  • Initiation of the validation process. This process was difficult due to the lack of access to relevant coherent Baltic-wide biological data.
  • Commencement the confidence assessment exemplified for specific subregions. Again this process was difficult due to restricted accessibility to raw and metadata.
  • Presentation of the data layers and maps as well as examples of their potential application.

Main Outputs / Results

The report provides an overview of the methodology used to develop the maps and the outcomes for the Baltic Sea. As a general conclusion the marine landscape maps covering entire ecoregions are potentially a strong tool providing a basis for a broad-scale spatial approach to the planning and management of the marine environment. The approach presented here is a fully applicable and usable ecologically relevant characterisation of the Baltic Sea.

The report includes recommendations directed at policymakers, scientists and environmental managers for the future refinement and application of ecologically relevant marine landscape maps.


The case study refers to the Baltic Sea. End users might find it necessary to continue the refinement and improvement of the maps for specific sites. The methodology can be applied for in other sea beds. Therefore the findings and recommendations in this practice are relevant for other sea basins too.

Costs / Funding Source

The BALANCE project is part-financed by the EU BSR INTERREG IIIB Neighbourhood Programme and partly by the involved partners.

Responsible Entity

Zyad Al-Hamdani 

The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. Oester Voldgade 10, 1350 Copenhagen C, Denmark, e-mail:
Phone: +45 38142000