1 Department of Bioscience - Applied Marine Ecology and Modelling, Department of Bioscience, Science and Technology, Aarhus University2 unknown3 Department of Bioscience - Applied Marine Ecology and Modelling, Department of Bioscience, Science and Technology, Aarhus University
The European countries are facing a new era in the field of marine environmental assessments as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires not only assessments of status but also of anthropogenic pressures and impacts. To ddress the new standards, the traditional approach of identifying hot spots needs to be replaced by spatial high-resolution maps associated with estimated impacts on key ecosystem components. The Baltic Sea Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) took a first step towards an initial regional assessment of anthropogenic pressures in the Initial Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea by producing the Baltic Sea Pressure Index (BSPI) and the Baltic Sea Impact Index (BSII). The BSPI visualizes cumulative anthropogenic pressures in the Baltic Sea scale, whereas the BSII consists of potential impacts of anthropogenic pressures on key ecosystem components. In addition to the spatial overview, the tools give a simple ranking of predominant pressures, thus providing a linkage to the management of human activities. The ranking has been made both on the scale of the entire sea region and 14 sub-basins. The HELCOM BSPI has been validated against the status of macrozoobenthic communities in some Baltic sub-basins and the results have suggested that more specific selection of pressures is needed in order to assess anthropogenic impacts on benthic habitats. Such an adaptation of the tool has already been tested to assess the sea-floor integrity under the MSFD qualitative descriptor 6. Similar pressure and impact estimates can be produced for any biotope or species once the pressure-impact relationships have been identified.