Monitoring and evaluation

Main Issues: 

Every MSP process, as well as resulting maritime spatial plans, should be guided by objectives which are linked to appropriate indicators – in order to allow for an objective and independent measurement and evaluation of the performance of each management action over time. Indicators – by simplifying complex phenomena to a few quantifiable measures – can serve as early warning signals.

Indicators for MSP can be organised into three types:

  • Governance indicators to measure the performance of MSP processes,
  • Socio-economic indicators to show the human costs and benefits derived from coastal and marine ecosystems, and
  • Ecological indicators to reflect trends and changes in the marine environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can the performance of a Maritime Spatial Plan be measured and evaluated?

Performance monitoring and evaluation is a key need for every MSP process, in order to check the effectiveness of measures and adapt to changes in environmental conditions and uses of the sea.

Guidelines for measuring MSP performance and identification of indicators are provided by the UNESCO-IOC (2011) document "A Guide to Evaluating Marine Spatial Plans". With reference to the three major types of indicators as generally defined some examples are indicated in the Guide:

  1. Governance Indicators: Governance indicators of Inputs (Effective authority for MSP established, Responsible institution(s) for MSP identified and lead selected, etc.); Governance indicators of Process (MSP team established, Stakeholders identified and engaged, etc.); Governance indicators of Outputs (Work plan completed, MSP goals identified and objectives specified).
  2. Socio-Economic Indicators: Food security indicators (e.g. nutritional needs of coastal population); Livelihood indicators (e.g. economic status and relative wealth of coastal residents); Indicators of non-monetary benefits to society (e.g. aesthetic value, cultural value, etc.); Indicators that benefits are equitably distributed; Indicators of compatibility between MSP and local culture; Indicators of environmental awareness.
  3. Ecological or Environmental indicators: Population-level indicators (e.g. Populations of target species, catch yield); Biodiversity indicators (e.g. resident ecosystems, communities, habitats, etc.); Species indicators (e.g. Focal species abundance); Habitat protection indicators (e.g. Habitat quality/and or quantity, Alien and invasive species; Habitat restoration indicators (e.g. Ecosystem functions restored, etc.).

Some specific Governance indicators, useful for measuring progress in early stages of the MSP process, are available from the DG-MARE study "Legal aspects of Maritime Spatial Planning" (MRAG, 2008) (See also FAQ "How to measure progress towards MSP?" below).

As for ecological or environmental indicators, links to the implementation of the MSFD supporting the achievement of Good Environmental Status (GES) of the territorial seas by 2020 should be considered. The Integrated Management of the Marine Environment of the Barents Sea and the Sea Areas off the Lofoten Islands is a relevant example of implementation of a monitoring program following an Ecosystem-based approach (EBA) in the context of a sea use plan-. Indicators were selected on the basis of their relevance to ecosystem management and Norway’s international obligations, and whether they are feasible in practice. Examples of indicators are the population trend for common guillemot and level of pollutants in polar bears.

A comprehensive framework for monitoring and evaluating spatially managed areas is provided by the MESMA project. This framework can be applied to MSP plans or projects still in the development phase. The MESMA model is based on an ecosystem perspective and the premise that MSP seeks to maintain or improve the ecological status of the marine environment; thus it includes specific reference to the marine ecosystem, using the DPSIR approach as a way of describing human impacts on the environment and state and pressure indicators. Step 3 of the framework deals specifically with the definition of performance indicators, together with their reference points. Practical tools to support this step are available on-line within the MESMA toolbox.

How can progress in MSP be measured?

In early stages of MSP it is not possible to assess its effectiveness completely. Nevertheless, progress can be monitored, in order to provide feedback to institutions, stakeholders and the wider public, and to promote the process itself. Governance indicators are particularly relevant for this phase.

"A Guide to Evaluating Marine Spatial Plans" provides some examples of useful Governance indicators (the guide is also synthesised in the MSP section of the UNESCO-IOC web site), such as:

  • Governance indicators of Inputs: Effective authority for MSP established, Responsible institution(s) for MSP identified and lead selected, Required funding for MSP provided, Required staff with appropriate skills provided;
  • Governance indicators of Process: MSP team established, Stakeholders identified and engaged, Stakeholders are satisfied with participation process, Science advisory committee established;
  • Governance indicators of Outputs: Work plan completed, MSP goals identified and objectives specified.

Indicators of progress in initial phases of MSP are available from the DG-MARE study "Legal aspects of Maritime Spatial Planning" (MRAG, 2008). In particular, seven indicators are identified:

  1. Policy and legal framework: this issue is considered essential for the promotion of MSP and also in enabling cross-sectoral integration;
  2. Information management: data and information are fundamental to the management of any natural resource;
  3. Permitting and licensing: the key issue is not whether permitting is provided for but the extent to which it is coordinated across sectors and permitting procedures are simple and transparent;
  4. Consultation: this is necessary to ensure that different sectoral objectives and priorities for maritime space are taken into account as well as to reduce the risk of conflict between different sectors/interest groups;
  5. Sector conflict management: this indicator is proposed due to the real risk of conflict in the absence of MSP;
  6. Cross-border cooperation: this indicator is proposed due to the high degree to which MSP in the waters of one European country is likely to be affected by activities in a neighbouring state. Other boundaries include land-sea boundaries and borders between different administrations;
  7. Implementation of MSP: finally this indicator is proposed to assess the degree to which MSP actually takes place: how it is translated from policy and law into practice.

For each indicator, an evaluation grid is provided, with a score from 0 to 5. Scoring grids for each indicator are provided in Annex A of the document.

Finally, “TPEA - Transboundary Planning in the European Atlantic” project developed an evaluation framework for assessing the quality and effectiveness of MSP in trans-boundary contexts.  A checklist is presented containing a series of proposed evaluation criteria and indicators which was field tested in the two pilot areas of the TPEA project.

Are there climate change indicators available to support coastal planners that can be useful in taking care of land-sea interactions?

Climate change indicators to be used in coastal planning are available from the Coastal Indicator System (COINS), developed within the BLAST project. COINS is based on the 27 sustainability indicators identified by the European Expert Group on integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) and concentrates on the indicators particularly related to the impact of climate change. Examples of (directed or undirected) climate-related indicators included in COINS are:

A - Indicators aiming at controlling further development on undeveloped coasts:

  1. Demand for property on the coast
  2. The area of built-up land
  3. Rate of development of undeveloped land
  4. Demand for road travel on the coast.

B Indicators recognising the threat to coastal areas from climate change:

       5. Coastal zone erosion
       6. Natural, human and economic assets at risk.

C Indicator recognizing the sustainable development value of the coastal area:

       7. Potential of the coastal zone as a resource for renewable energy.

Coastal planners can visualise the effects of climate change on coastal areas using the COINS system. They are able to develop scenarios of socio-economic development balanced with environmental protection that are realistically constrained by the potential effects of climate change.

The SUSTAIN project has developed an indicator-based methodology and scoring system, DeCyDe for Sustainability Policy tool, which enables a self- assessment approach for local and regional authorities, to evaluate their sustainability performance for the purpose of improving the management of coastal zones.



Transboundary MSP pilot in the Bothnian Sea

The guidance provides a draft plan of the Bothnia Sea. The map is followed by draft recommendations for certain designated issues. It aims to stimulate discussion around what a transboundary plan of the Bothnian Sea could look like. The plan also refers to environmental assessments and their requirements when preparing for certain sectors.

Analysis of multiple stressors in Brindisi area through DPSIR approach

Shape pilot project implemented in Puglia Region focused on assessment of the environmental features and problems affecting the marine and coastal zone of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Torre Guaceto and the neighbouring port and industrial area of Brindisi.

COINS - Coastal Indicator System

Using the 27 climate change indicators developed by the European Expert Group on ICZM, COINS helps coastal planners take account of potential future impacts of climate change in their work. It is a web-based tool built on open source components and can be used free of charge.

Generic framework for monitoring and evaluation of Spatially Managed Areas

The central part of the MESMA spatial management tool box is a generic and flexible framework which describes a best practice process of how to assess a given spatial management within a discrete marine area with clearly defined boundaries in space and time.

Indicators for describing coastal development processes

Comparative analysis of three coastal regions from Poland, Lithuania and Russia with regard to ICZM indicators.

TPEA Evaluation Report

Development of an evaluation framework for assessing the quality and effectiveness of MSP in transboundary contexts.

Update of the integrated management plan for the Barents Sea – Lofoten area

In 2015 an update has been made of the integrated management plan for the Barents Sea – Lofoten area. The plan in place, developed in 2006, already had some updates during the years, integrating new research findings and stakeholder input. This version is the new official update of the Management Plan.

GIS tools for MSP and management

This set of practical information presents GIS tools for elineation of marine and coastal biophysical properties and for identifying specific ecosystem components.

DeCyDe for Sustainability Policy tool

The DeCyDe for Sustainability tool is a spreadsheet based set of indicators and decision support tool that allows coastal communities and Authorities to self-assess their progress towards sustainability goals. The tool examines strategic targets within existing policy, applying sustainability indicators and applying the decision support tool.

Maps, Indicators and Factsheets for the Mediterranean sea region

The Med-IAMER project identified a wide number of indicators used to display spatial information about socioeconomic drivers and environmental pressures in the Mediterranean region. A specific “cumulative pressures” indicator was also formulated, accounting for the interactions among the six major drivers.