Sample Thesis

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As marine environments are under increasing anthropogenic pressure, there is a need for decision support systems (DSSs) and management tools that allow to tackle some of the environmental problems associated with this pressure and to allocate the different uses in a sustainable way. Most marine management tools are built around the Driver-Pressure-StateImpact-Response (DPSIR) framework, where indicators are selected which are able to quantify each of these different components. Other available decision support systems are impact assessments, spatial planning, multi-criteria analyses and socio-economic valuations. The ideal DSS should integrate information on both socio-economic and ecological factors to be able to allow balanced, sustainable decisions. While several socio-economic valuation tools have been developed and used for marine management in the past, the integration of biological information in the decision framework was usually done by using ecological indicators. Although there exists a wide variety of literature on ecological indicators, integrative, system-level indicators are still lacking. This asks for the development of a new indicator that integrates all available biological information into one value which expresses the intrinsic value of a certain marine area. The general objectives of this thesis are the development, application and testing of a marine biological valuation methodology that is able to integrate all available biological information of an area into one indicator of intrinsic value. Examples of the application of the protocol to different case study areas are discussed to see how the methodology performs under different circumstances. Next to that, the thesis reviewed the possibilities of using the protocol for the implementation of several European Directives, which relate to nature conservation in the marine environment, and as part of decision support systems for marine management in general, and spatial planning in particular. The outline of the thesis is also described at the end of this chapter.

Key words:

decision support systems, ecological indicators, marine management, socioeconomic valuation, biological valuation, DPSIR framework, integrated management, sustainability


Marine environments are currently experiencing intense pressures from a range of natural and anthropogenic driving forces. Marine managers and policy makers are seeking ways of better managing the causes and consequences of the environmental change process at sea. Marine areas, and especially coastal environments, are very difficult places to manage, as they are dynamic natural systems which have been increasingly pressurised by expanding socio-economic demands, due to high settlements along coastlines and decreasing space and resources on land (Fabbri, 1998; Turner, 2000). A fundamental issue in the development of marine management tools is the fact that it is hardly possible to manage the sea or marine environments. There exists no means for significant management of most of the marine ecosystem processes. It is therefore only possible to manage human behaviour to influence what people do to the marine resources and habitats and to try to decrease the damage. The concept that human activities can damage marine biodiversity and ecosystems is very recent, as most people were brought up with notions of the seas as vast, remote and limitless sources of food and resources and sinks to absorb human waste (Kullenberg, 1995; Antunes & Santos, 1999; Maes et al., 2005). The health and sustainable use of coastal and sea resources are of critical importance given their role in food production, economic activity, genetic biodiversity and recreation. Most current marine management frameworks are predominantly sectoral and cross-sectoral and broader community matters are dealt with on an issue-by-issue...
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