Adriplan Cumulative impact tool


The Cumulative Impact is the main methodological tool used in ADRIPLAN to evaluate the potential impact of maritime activities on the environment, quantifying the pressures generated by the uses on the environmental components (in the current and future scenarios). Cumulative impacts are a key point for the construction of maritime spatial plans using an Ecosystem Based Approach (EBA). The analysis of cumulative impacts aims at identifying areas in the sea where the environmental and ecological components are more exposed to anthropogenic pressures that negatively affect them. In Adriplan the general method and formula proposed by Halpern et al., 2007 has been adopted.

Sea Basin(s): 
Application in MSP: 
Taken into account in an MSP process
Mineral extraction
Nature protection
Offshore renewable energy production
Oil and gas exploitation
Submarine cables and pipelines
Type of Issue: 
Ecosystem-based approach
Environment aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Analyse spatial aspects
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Questions this practice may help answer

  • Which is the impact of human activities on the environment?
  • How are the impacts spatially distributed throughout the planning region?
  • Which is the most impactful activity on the environment?
  • Which is the most sensitive/vulnerable environmental component?
  • Which is the map of the most and least impacted areas within a planning region?

Implementation Context

The cumulative impacts tool is the main methodological tool developed and used in the ADRIPLAN project ( in order to evaluate the potential cumulative impacts of various maritime activities on the environment in the Adriatic-Ionian macroregion. The tool has been developed with the intent to be a useful instrument for supporting the construction of future maritime spatial plans under an Ecosystem-Based Approach (EBA).

Aspects / Objectives

The main objectives of the development of the cumulative impacts tool were:

  • supporting MSP activities, in particular the definition of strategies and planning measures and the optimization of reallocation of maritime uses;
  • carrying out collaborative cumulative impacts analyses with the maximum transparency of data and procedures;
  • allowing temporal reproducibility of cumulative impacts results and periodic repetition of the cumulative impacts analyses with updated datasets;
  • allowing comparison between different simulations, as well as storing and accessing the cumulative impacts results of different analyses;
  • spatially identifying the areas in the Adriatic-Ionian sub-basin, where the environmental components are more exposed to pressures generated by anthropogenic uses, so defining where the potential environmental impacts of human activities are more concentrated;
  • increasing the level of knowledge about Adriatic-Ionian environmental components sensitivity (confidence) and defining possible gaps.


The analysis of cumulative impact is based on the methodology implemented on the basis of the best available knowledge on the subject and adapted to the characteristics of the Adriatic-Ionian sub-basin. In particular, the formula applied is the one proposed by Andersen et al., (2013)[1], which integrates Halpern et al. (2007)[2] methodology with the contributions of the pressures generated by the anthropic uses on the environmental components, answering to MSFD (2008/56/CE) requirements. For the complete description of the method please see (Barbanti et al.[3], 2015, Gissi et al., in preparation).

The cumulative impacts tool currently allows authorised users within the ADRIPLAN Data Portal ( to run experiments, simulations and analyses about the cumulative impacts calculation, interacting directly with the data stored inside the Portal. These users have the possibility to access a restricted area where it is possible to configure several scenarios (case studies), by setting up the study area, the grid resolution and choosing, among the data layers collected in the ADRIPLAN Data Portal, which maritime uses and environmental components to consider for the definition of the cumulative impact analysis. Users can also upload their spatial data layers to the ADRIPLAN platform and create independent case studies analyses. The purpose is to make the application available to all users of the Data Portal in the near future.

The run of the cumulative impacts tool is divided into 5 steps:

  1. Creation of the square grid cells of the area of analysis, according to European Environment Agency Reference Grid;
  2. Collection of statistics about presence of “uses” (17 spatially explicit maritime uses were considered in ADRIPLAN, related to: oil & gas exploitation and research, LNG – Liquefied Natural Gas, renewable energy, cables and pipelines, maritime transport, coastal and maritime tourism, naval based activities, bottom and pelagic trawling, small scale fishery, aquaculture, sand extraction, coastal defence works, military areas) for each cell and, if the use doesn’t intersect the cell, computation of the distance;
  3. Collection of statistics about presence of “environmental components” for each cell (e.g. nursery habitats, marine mammals, marine birds and turtles.
  4. Computation of the cumulative impacts score for each cell, according to the Andersen et al., (2013) formula;
  5. Publication of the results (layer, portrayal styles, metadata) on the ADRIPLAN Data Portal: the style is dynamically created using the Jenks natural breaks classification method.

Main Outputs / Results

The tool enables identifying the main environmental pressures emerging from each maritime activity and localizing them in the marine space, thus identifying the most impacted areas, as well as areas with similar behaviour in terms of patterns of cumulative impacts.

In the case of the application of the tool in the ADRIPLAN project, the spatial presentation of the cumulative impacts shows that the highest potential impact on the Adriatic-Ionian sea takes place in three main areas: (i) Northern Adriatic and Croatian coastline; (ii) the Italian coastline of Abruzzo, Molise and Apulia Regions; and (iii) the territorial waters of Greece (Ionian side).

In addition to the main output of the spatial representation of cumulative impacts (map of cumulative impacts), the tool produces more outputs interesting for MSP implementation, such as:

  • A spatial representation of an indicator of the coexistence of uses, according to the approach proposed by COEXIST Project;
  • Plots, tables and detailed maps representing the contribution of each use and environmental component to the final score;
  • Analysis of the gaps in terms of availability and quality of input data.


The tool is configured as a plugin in the GeoNode platform and thus its use can be replicated for any data portal that uses such technology. The tool is currently under further development in order to improve and sharpen its performance and make it more versatile, usable independently to GeoNode platform. Consequently at the end of this refactoring process, the MSP tool will be released as FOSS (Free and Open Source Software).

Contact Person

Alessandro Sarretta


+39 041 2407929


Stefano Menegon



Elena Gissi


+39 041 2572176

Responsible Entity

CNR-ISMAR: National Research Council – Institute of Marine Science (Italy)

University IUAV of Venezia (Italy)

Costs / Funding Source

Funding Source: the cumulative impacts tool was developed within the ADRIPLAN project, funded by EC DG MARE.

Costs: not possible to be defined, as part of the overall funds to the ADRIPLAN project.

[1] Andersen, J.H. & Stock, A. (eds.), Mannerla, M., Heinänen, S. & M. Vinther, M., 2013. Human uses, pressures and impacts in the eastern North Sea. Aarhus University, DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy. 136 pp. Technical Report from DCE –Danish Centre for Environment and Energy No. 18.

[2] Halpern, B.S., Selkoe, K.A., Micheli, F., Kappel, C.V., 2007. Evaluating and ranking the vulnerability of global marine ecosystems to anthropogenic threats. Conservation Biology 21, 1301–1315.

[3] Barbanti A., Campostrini P., Musco F., Sarretta A., Gissi E. (eds.) (2015). Developing a Maritime Spatial Plan for the Adriatic –Ionian Region. CNR-ISMAR, Venice, IT.