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DPSIR-Two decades of trying to develop a unifying framework for marine environmental management?

Patrício, Joana; Elliott, Michael; Mazik, Krysia; Papadopoulou, Konstantia-Nadia; Smith, Christopher J.


Joana Patrício

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Professor Mike Elliott
Emeritus Professor of Estuarine and Coastal Sciences/ Research Professor, Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies

Konstantia-Nadia Papadopoulou

Christopher J. Smith


© 2016 Patrício, Elliott, Mazik, Papadopoulou and Smith. Determining and assessing the links between human pressures and state-changes in marine and coastal ecosystems remains a challenge. Although there are several conceptual frameworks for describing these links, the Drivers-Pressures-State change-Impact-Response (DPSIR) framework has been widely adopted. Two possible reasons for this are: either the framework fulfills a major role, resulting from convergent evolution, or the framework is used often merely because it is used often, albeit uncritically. This comprehensive review, with lessons learned after two decades of use, shows that the approach is needed and there has been a convergent evolution in approach for coastal and marine ecosystem management. There are now 25 derivative schemes and a widespread and increasing usage of the DPSIR-type conceptual framework as a means of structuring and analyzing information in management and decision-making across ecosystems. However, there is less use of DPSIR in fully marine ecosystems and even this was mainly restricted to European literature. Around half of the studies are explicitly conceptual, not illustrating a solid case study. Despite its popularity since the early 1990s among the scientific community and the recommendation of several international institutions (e.g., OECD, EU, EPA, EEA) for its application, the framework has notable weaknesses to be addressed. These primarily relate to the long standing variation in interpretation (mainly between natural and social scientists) of the different components (particularly P, S, and I) and to over-simplification of environmental problems such that cause-effect relationships cannot be adequately understood by treating the different DPSIR components as being mutually exclusive. More complex, nested, conceptual models and models with improved clarity are required to assess pressure-state change links in marine and coastal ecosystems. Our analysis shows that, because of its complexity, marine assessment and management constitutes a


Patrício, J., Elliott, M., Mazik, K., Papadopoulou, K., & Smith, C. J. (2016). DPSIR-Two decades of trying to develop a unifying framework for marine environmental management?. Frontiers in Marine Science, 3(SEP), Article 177.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Sep 1, 2016
Online Publication Date Sep 14, 2016
Publication Date Sep 14, 2016
Deposit Date Sep 23, 2016
Publicly Available Date Sep 23, 2016
Journal Frontiers in marine science
Electronic ISSN 2296-7745
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Issue SEP
Article Number 177
Keywords Environmental assessment, Biodiversity, Conceptual framework, Drivers, Pressures, State, Impacts, Response
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Copy of article first published in: Frontiers in marine science, 2016, v.3 The article was also published as part of an open access ebook, Borja, A., Elliott, M., Uyarra, M. C., Carstensen, J., Mea, M., eds. (2017). Bridging the Gap Between Policy and Science in Assessing the Health Status of Marine Ecosystems, 2nd Edition. Lausanne: Frontiers Media. doi: 10.3389/978-2-88945-126-5


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Copyright Statement
© 2016 Patrício, Elliott, Mazik, Papadopoulou and Smith. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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