3. UN World Ocean Assessment
The United Nations World Ocean Assessment (www.worldoceanassessment.org) uses the Drivers-Pressures-State-Impacts-Response (DPSIR) framework (Fig. 1) as a basis on which to build its structure and organize its content. The DPSIR, in turn, clearly identifies the place of assessment of environmental condition (the State) within a broad management framework. The purpose of SOME assessments is to fulfill the need of measuring the “State” in order to design new government policy “Responses” as well as to gauge the effectiveness of those already implemented.
The DPSIR framework suggests at least three possible approaches for structuring any SOME assessment: 1) Pressures; 2) Habitats; and 3) Ecosystem Services. Using Pressures to structure an assessment has the advantages that the associated human activities are commonly linked with data collection and reporting structures for regulatory compliance purposes. For instance, permits that are issued for offshore oil and gas development require specific monitoring and reporting obligations be met by operators. Pressures are linked to socioeconomic benefits that states derive from marine based industries and the inclusion of socioeconomic aspects is a key component of the World Ocean Assessment.
Using marine habitats to structure an assessment has the advantage that habitat is the property that inherently integrates many ecosystem features, including higher and lower trophic level species, water quality, oceanographic conditions and many types of anthropogenic pressures. The cumulative aspect of multiple pressures affecting the same habitat, that is often lost in sector-based environmental reporting, is captured by using habitats as reporting and assessment units.
Figure 1. Drivers-Pressures-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) Framework as used by the UN World Ocean Assessment in relation to the ocean environment. Drivers result in Pressures that have an effect on the State of the environment (the assessment of which is the purpose of SOME reporting). The implementation of monitoring is required to gauge the effectiveness of policy Responses.
Using ecosystem services to structure an assessment follows the approach of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. This has the key advantage of broad acceptance in environmental reporting. It includes provisioning services (food, construction materials, renewable energy, coastal protection) while highlighting regulating services and quality-of-life services that are not captured using a pressures or habitats approach to structuring the assessment.
Given that all three approaches have their own particular advantages, the Group of Experts recommends that a combination of all three approaches should be included in the structure of SOME Assessments as far as possible.