Assessment of cumulative human pressures on a coastal area: Integrating information for MPA planning and management
As recently reinforced in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), knowledge on the location and intensity of human impacts on marine ecosystems is critical for effective marine management and conservation. Human interaction with ecosystems has to be accounted for in order to efficiently implement marine management strategies. In the present study, the main human activities occurring along the mainland Portuguese coast were identified and mapped. The cumulative impact of these activities was calculated in order to assess impacts in different zones, namely in Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and their boundaries. Higher impact values were obtained near the coast, where all the analysed MPAs are located. Furthermore, most MPAs are sorrounded by areas with very high impacts, near the largest urban settlements and the most industrialized coastal sections. These results are the first assessment of cumulative human pressures in this study area as a whole (and with this level of resolution) and might be of great usefulness to overcome the current challenges of sustainable management in marine ecosystems. Knowledge provided by this study strengthens the need for a more integrative approach to design and manage MPAs and can be useful to support the requirements of the MSFD. The approach here developed is also a powerful tool to apply in several contexts of sustainable marine management and can be developed in any geographic area.