Study on Integrating an Ecosystem-based Approach into Maritime Spatial Planning


The framework established under the Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) Directive (2014/89/EU) aims at promoting the sustainable growth of maritime economies, the sustainable development of marine areas and the sustainable use of marine resources” (Art. 1(1)). In preparing and implementing their plans, Member States should apply “an ecosystem- based approach” (Art. 5(1)) so the functioning of ecosystems and biodiversity are well accounted for.

Today, experiences in the application of ecosystem-based approaches (EBA) in MSP are growing but are not yet well documented. In this context, the Executive Agency for SMEs (EASME), on behalf of DG MARE of the European Commission, has established a service contract for a study on the concrete application of EBA in MSP. Its main objective is to assess the state of play in the practical application of EBA in MSP and to develop a practical method and toolbox that can support the application, monitoring and evaluation of EBA in MSP.

This study is carried out by a team that brings together Milieu Consulting (the overall coordinator) with ACTeon, the Baltic Environmental Forum and Wageningen University, supported by Fresh Thoughts Consulting and GRID-Arendal.


Information gathering

The study started with a literature review of reports and academic articles published through the end of 2019. This identified over 200 source documents; while many of these documents provided useful information, only a few directly addressed both the ecosystems-based approach and maritime spatial planning.

To address this gap, the project team carried out interviews with key officials and experts in EU Member States to understand their work to integrate EBA into MSP.


Case studies

The preparation of the practical method and toolbox is also supported by five case studies of work to integrate EBA into MSP. Four of the case studies are in the EU’s regional seas:

  • Baltic Sea: this case study looks at the analysis of marine green infrastructure as a tool for EBA as well as the role of local participatory methods to assess ecosystem services.
  • Black Sea: the focus of this case study is the role of other EU legislation, such as the MSFD, in supporting the ecosystems-based approach.
  • Mediterranean: a case study in the Northern Adriatic is testing the use of valuation techniques for ecosystem services.
  • North Sea: this case study focuses on work in the Netherlands to assess cumulative impacts on ecosystems.

The fifth case is reviewing MSP in Massachusetts, in the United States, where maritime planning is now entering its third cycle. It looks at processes for reviewing MSP and for involving stakeholders.



The project is using a set of participatory workshops where officials, experts and stakeholders can provide input. These workshops are taking place for each case study and also for the work on the practical method and toolbox.

Our upcoming workshops are:

  • 10 March 2021: Which role for ecosystem service valuation in supporting Maritime Spatial Planning?

For more information, please contact: Sarah Loudin ( and Pierre Strosser (

  • 25 March 2021: Developing a practical method and toolbox to integrate EBA into MSP

For more information, please contact:


Project results

The study will run through the end of May 2021. We will post intermediate reports here when they are available.



We welcome questions as well as any information you may wish to share on the ecosystems-based approach in MSP. Please contact us by writing to: