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Social Ecological Accounting Framework


This framework isolates human system aspects of the interaction with ecological systems, enabling a direct comparison of the sort required by cost-benefit analysis. This reconfiguration also supports accountability within human systems.

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 theoretical frameworks can be used to describe the interaction between human systems and ecological systems?
  • What theoretical framework forms the base for the ecosystem approach used in MSP processes?

Implementation Context

Social-ecological accounting frameworks organise information on aspects of social (i.e.human) and ecological systems relevant to representing the interactions between them.These frameworks make the understanding of such interactions and environmental decision making more tractable.

A well known framework has been the the DPSIR (Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response) framework, This framework is stongly linked with the ecosystem approach, which is used in Maritime Spatial Planning processes.

However, the usefulness of the DPSIR framework more generally is circumscribed by its lack of a universally agreed set of definitions for its information categories and lack of a clear conceptual underpinning. There is a need for a more detailed elaboration on the framework. This practice focuses on developing a new framework DPSWR out of the DPSIR framework.

Aspects / Objectives

To define the DPSWR framework and comment on its application.


  1. Discussion of the DPSIR information categories around the definitions of the European Environment Agency.
  2. Develop critique on definitional uncertainty and limited conceptual underpinning.
  3. Using the critique to modify the DPSIR framework to a new framewok called DPSWR.

Main Outputs / Results

A new framework has been developed DPSWR. This framework is able to form a base for improvements of the ecosystem approach in MSP processes in the future. There is a need for further improvements in the near future.

Visualisation DPSWR Framework

Characteristics of different elements in DPSWR framework


The DPSWR is a very theoretical framework, forming the base for more practical tools such as the ecosystem approach. The practice is not relevant for any specfic area as such. However, in researchers can use the model developed to apply it in more specfic cases.



Philip Cooper

University of Bath

Email: (p[dot]cooper[at]bath[dot]ac[dot]uk)