K307 Elsi

Conflicts at Sea: Modeling the occurrence of biotopes and human pressures


Matti Sahla
Ulrika Björkman


Planning ecologically sustainable use of marine areas requires recognition of the ecological values and understanding what effects anthropogenic activities might have. Parks & Wildlife Finland has started series of projects to create methods for biological modeling as well as human pressure modeling to aid the MSP –processes. These methods will also be used in assessing the protection status of marine protected areas.

Man has been using the sea as a source of food and a passage for traveling throughout history. During the past 100 years, ways of utilizing the sea has become more diverse and their intensity have drastically increased. Growing demands of different actors have led to increasing problems at sea. Situations where human activities are overlapping with areas of high environmental values is quite common but could be avoided in many places with sufficient planning efforts.

Mapping ecological values such as occurrence of species and biotopes is essential for assessing human impacts. Inventories have been conducted along the Finnish coast for the past 10 years and vast amounts of information have been gathered. However, the field inventories have relatively small spatial coverage and it is concentrated to the protected area network. Parks & Wildlife Finland has deployed modeling efforts to spread the information from the field to cover all national sea areas. Biological modeling strives to describe environmental conditions in areas where field observations are sparse or does not exist. The modeling process uses information on physical features such as salinity and temperature to indicate what kind of areas are most preferable for certain species or biotopes. During the SeaGIS 2 project modeling methods have been used to reveal the spatial occurrence of 23 of the most common underwater biotopes from Finland and Sweden in the Kvarken region. These methods will be applied on modeling all off Finnish marine areas in 2018-2019 and the methods will be further developed in the SeamBOTH project in the Bothnian Bay.

In SeaGIS 2 we have used cumulative human pressure modeling to indicate the overall impacts from human activities on the marine environment. By modeling we have estimated influence areas of human activities for each pressure they are expected to cause. For e.g. where noise from ship traffic is frequent/ disturbing and where dredging causes bottom sediment disturbance. The modeling process needs information on human activities, the marine nature and how much each activity is estimated to cause disturbance for each species or biotope. With this information it is possible to calculate areas that have most likely been affected by human activities. The method has already been used on the SeaGIS 2 –project area and will be applied on the whole Finnish coast in 2019.