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Representative Network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Baltic Sea


This set of practical information presents a regional, systematic, transparent and ecologically based approach for identifying MPAs in the Baltic Sea.

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 regional systematic approach can be used to select and protect a representative network of MPA sites (Marine Protected Areas) in a specific area?
  • What was the status in 2007 of the MPAs in the Baltic Sea considering regional coordination and what can be done to establish a representative MPA network in the region?

Implementation Context

Prior approaches for identifying MPAs  (Marine Protected Areas) in the Baltic Sea has largely been done on an ad-hoc, site by site basis without regional coordination. A systematic approach for planning in the marine environment is now well developed and widely recognized. This provides a transparent, scientifically credible and efficient framework for the planning of MPA networks to meet the conservation criteria and management objectives. This report provides the first steps towards development of a regional systematic approach to MPA site selection in the Baltic Sea.

Aspects / Objectives

Introduce a regional, systematic, transparent and ecologically based approach to select and protect a representative network of MPA sites in the Baltic Sea.


  • The computer based decision support tool MARXAN was used to demonstrate the selection of a network of MPAs including representation of all benthic marine landscapes in the Baltic Sea and some selected species and habitats.
  • A benthic environment classification model was used to identify the benthic marine landscapes with the assumption that a representation of these landscapes would capture the full rangeof biodiversity in the Baltic Sea, Kattegat and Skagerrak, on a broad scale.
  • Several different scenarios where we vary the target levels and whether or not existing MPAs are included in the network design. Three uniform representation target scenarios were explored to illustrate different levels of conservation ambition.
  • Examine how efficient the existing MPAs were at meeting the management objectives and what would be required to extend this existing network to meet the conservation targets.
  • Illustrate, in a case study in the Swedish Archipelago - Åland - Archipelago Sea area, how the regional broad scale assessment can be improved with access to more biodiversity data

Main Outputs / Results

The report concludes that it is possible to apply a broad scale systematic approach in the Baltic Sea region. If the aim is to establish a representative network in the region, the research strongly recommend the use of a systematic approach to site selection instead of selecting MPAs site by site. A regional systematic approach maximizes the chance of creating a network that is representative and protects the whole range of biodiversity in the region. Using decision support tools such as MARXAN secure an efficient process and increase the likelihood that the selected network make efficient use of available re sources and satisfy the whole range of ecological and socio-economic targets. A systematic approach to selecting a representative network of sites is a key component in a broad scale ecosystem based spatial planning process in the Baltic Sea.


The research was aimed at identifying a regional systematic approach of MPAs in the Baltic Sea specifically. Although region specific, this approach can also for an inspiration for other sea basins to develop an own regional systematic approach based on their institutional setting.

Costs / Funding Source

Interreg IIIB Baltic Sea Region

Responsible Entity

Åsa Ranung, Världsnaturfonden WWF, Ulriksdals Slott, 170 81 Solna, Sweden, telephone: +46-624 74 00
E-mail: (info[at]wwf[dot]se)

Samuli Korpinen,Finnish Environment Institute, Mechelininkatu 34a, PO Box 140,FI-00251 Helsinki, Finland phone: +358406618977 
Email: (samuli[dot]korpinen[at]ymparisto[dot]fi)