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Pressures and their impacts on coastal ecosystems in the SES, Gap Analysis


The practice provides the key findings on the relationships between human activities/pressures on the environment/changes in the state of the environment/impacts on the ecosystem in the selected coastal areas as well as identifies the main gaps (both in data and in knowledge).

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
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Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
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Questions this practice may help answer

  • What data and sources are needed for studying and analysis of human pressures on the coastal marine ecosystems?
  • What a methodology could be used to build indicators related to pressures in the coastal areas?

Implementation Context

The overall scientific objectives of PERSEUS project are to identify the interacting patterns of natural and human-derived pressures on the Mediterranean and Black Seas, assess their impact on marine ecosystems and, using the objectives and principles of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive as a vehicle, to design an effective and innovative research governance framework based on sound scientific knowledge.

The Mediterranean and Black Seas are affected by important coastal pressures due to human activities. These pressures result from the growth of coastal populations, the exploitation of marine resources, the development of shipping, tourism and industrialization. The combined and often synergistic effects of these pressures make coastal marine ecosystems more vulnerable to changes, resulting in the destruction and degradation of habitats, alterations in the food web, introduction of new species, sometimes invasive, the dissemination of pollutants and litter in various components of the ecosystems. Consequently, in semi-enclosed basins like the Mediterranean and Black Seas, where coastal population and tourism are still growing, services and goods provided by marine ecosystems are threatened.

Aspects / Objectives

The objectives of studying the Pressures and Impacts at coastal level (Work Package 2) are to better characterise the pressures on the coastal areas of the Mediterranean and Black Seas, fill gaps in the knowledge of the processes through which human activities induce changes in marine ecosystems and assess their impact in a holistic manner. Coastal is understood as including the continental shelf, i.e. the marine area from a depth of 0 to 200 meters. Thus, the study establishes the sound knowledge base which is needed to monitor parameters affecting the environmental status (along with upgrading-expanding the existing observational systems and fill short term gaps), to build scenarios for the future and to control man-made pressures in order to improve the management of the SES in a sustainable way.

This image shows the WP1 & 2 study areas


First, an inventory of data sources (scientific literature, database, reports) related to human pressures on the selected coastal marine ecosystems was outlined. At the same time, key pressures related to socio-economic issues were identified. PERSEUS takes into account the work to be carried out by Member States that have to deliver their MSFD initial assessment in 2012 and the results of the Ecosystem Approach undertaken by the Mediterranean Action Plan and the Black Sea Commission. The study identifies gaps and, consequently, efforts are then made for the collection of unpublished data with particular emphasis on non-EU countries. Targeted data from existing observing systems in coordination with observing systems are also used in this procedure. Data from different sources and projects (including EMODNET, JERICO and other FP6, FP7 and GMES projects) are analysed in order to obtain an initial view of the pressures related to coastal development, the effects of large cities, recreational activities and pollution, across the SES and consider their impact on the coastal ecosystems. Emphasis is given to key interacting anthropogenic processes related to: - changes in fresh water and sediment riverine fluxes - nutrients and organic enrichment - contamination by hazardous substances - physical damage and loss of habitats - professional and recreational fishing & aquaculture - introduction of non-indigenous species - marine litter – noise.

In the first part of the study, an analysis of existing data and information was performed in order to acquire a more accurate picture of pressures for every region/subregion at coastal level and to identify differences. Temporal variations and trends are assessed, too. The study benefits from the work performed in relation to the upgrading-expanding the existing observational systems and fill short term gaps (Work Package 3) and for Developing integrated tools for environmental assessment (Work Package 4). It provides elements for establishing a basin-wide picture of coastal pressures and impacts.

Analysis of pressures within PERSEUS also draws upon existing data and information on human activities (e.g. fishing, shipping, waste disposal) in the SES region and categorized according to the type of generic pressure and impact (Eastwood et al., 2007; Stellzenmuller et al., 2010) directly related to the MSFD lists in Annex III. Different human activities have one or more associated pressures on the marine environment. A scoping study takes place including identification of the ecosystem components, pressures and activities relevant to the areas under study. A comprehensive matrix, adapted to SES conditions, and based on an inventory of activities, pressures, impacts and ecosystem components is used (e.g. Connor, 2008). Expert opinions (i.e. expert judgment from stakeholders/end users who will be involved in PERSEUS) are also used to weigh and score pressures/impacts and identify priorities in the different areas. Data analysis, focusing particularly on the main issues identified in each area, is then performed in order to obtain a more accurate picture of pressures there. This semi-quantitative method is useful when there is a lack of adequate data sets to perform a quantitative source assessment. It contributes to clarify which are the crucial data gaps. Temporal variations and trends are also assessed.

Simultaneously, a methodology was developed in order to build indicators related to some pressures in the coastal areas (fishing, aquaculture, sewage and river plumes, coastal artificialisation) of the SES using Very High Resolution (metric and sub-metric) satellite images.

Main Outputs / Results

The main output is a report titled “Pressures and their impacts on coastal ecosystems in the SES, Gap Analysis - Preliminary report”. The report is not publicly available. It is accessible through the PERSEUS web site. Downloading of deliverables requires login into the system. All deliverables are uploaded on the restricted-area of the website 'Partner's corner', only accessible by project partners. However, deliverables that are open access to all will be uploaded and clickable in the 'PERSEUS Results' section too. The contact person for further details is the PERSEUS Project Manager.


The practice is fully applicable in other contexts, as it provides a framework and methodology for similar studies.

Contact Person

Dr. Evangelos Papathanassiou

Coordinator of PERSEUS

Responsible Entity

Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (Consortium partner)

Villa Comunale

80121 - Naples, Italy

Tel.: +39 081 5833111

Fax: +39 081 7641355



Costs / Funding Source

Funding Source: FP7-ENVIRONMENT, FP7-OCEAN-2011. Funding scheme: CP-IP-SICA - Large-scale integrating project for specific cooperation actions dedicated to international cooperation partner countries(SICA)

Direct costs of this practice elaboration are unknown. 


[1] The Report is not publicly available. It is accessible through the PERSEUS web site. Downloading of deliverables requires login into the system (