End users’ perspective on decision support tools in marine spatial planning
Effective marine spatial planning (MSP) requires evidence-based decision-making processes in order to achieve sustainable use of marine resources and ecosystem services. In accordance with this purpose, decision support tools (DSTs) were used as the primary assistant of planners and managers. As a further step of existing review efforts on DSTs, this research aimed to add value to current knowledge by capturing end user opinions on their applications in MSP processes. For this purpose, perceptions and experiences on tools were acquired using an inclusive questionnaire. In total, 92 MSP experts were reached from 28 countries to collect information on: (i) DST users’ profile; (ii) the contribution of tools in MSP implementation processes, (iii) user opinions and experiences; and (iv) their expectations to draw recommendations and to give insights for future developments. Results revealed that developers should keep tool-user interaction from development to application stage and focus on a publicly accepted MSP working flow. Besides, new efforts on environmental data collection are needed to enable ecosystem-based approach in MSP. Hereby, this research analysed end user perceptions and opinions on DSTs, and it concludes that users require tools providing multi-functionality, integrity and ease of use.