Conceptual models for the effects of marine pressures on biodiversity

Conceptualising our ecosystem problems. Coupling DPSIR with BowTie and Risk Management

by C. Smith

Conceptual models help draw together, visualise and understand the issues and problems relating to actual or predicted situations and how they might be solved.

In recent years, Pressure-State-Response (P-S-R) frameworks have been central to conceptualising marine ecosystem risk analysis and risk management issues and then translating those to stakeholders, environmental managers and researchers. It is axiomatic that society is concerned about the risks to the natural and human system posed by those pressures (thus needing risk assessment) and then is required to act to minimise or compensate those risks (as risk management).

DEVOTES D1-1 ConceptualModels

Physical state changes associated with abrasion that potentially lead to an overall loss of seafloor integrity, and consequent biological state changes (at population, community or ecosystem level) that would be detected by Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) indicators.


The Deliverable 1.1 explores existing conceptual models of pressure-state change and refines these to produce a new model focusing on the way in which state change arises from the individual to the ecosystem level.

Difficulties are addressed in dealing with cumulative impacts and in particular with multiple simultaneous pressures, which more often occur in multi-use and multi-user areas. An improved understanding of the interactions between drivers, pressures and states (or, more particularly, the pressure-state change (P-S) linkage) is important to help facilitate consideration of possible Responses, but this is not something that is specifically provided for by application of the DPSIR approach alone (Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response).


Assessment tools including matrices assessments, dynamic ecosystem models and Bayesian Belief Networks are described. The Bow-Tie application is introduced as a marine risk assessment and risk management tool and the conceptual framework is redefined to incorporate mechanisms of pressure effect into a new model structure that supports the application of risk management approaches. In turn, the challenges for moving from conceptual frameworks to assessments are investigated.

Smith C, Papadopoulou N, Barnard S, Mazik K, Patrício J, Elliott M, Solaun O, Little S, Borja A, Bhatia N, Moncheva S,
Robele S, Bizsel KC, Eronat AH 2014. Conceptual models for the effects of marine pressures on biodiversity. Deliverable D.1.1., DEVOTES Project, 82 pp.
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