Academic literature review

Evaluation of marine spatial planning requires fit for purpose monitoring strategies

Stelzenmüller, Vanessa; Cormier, Roland; Gee, Kira; Sucksmith, Rachel; Gubbins, Matt; Yates, Kathrine L.; Morf, Andrea; Nicaonghusa, Caitriona; Mikkelsen, Eirik; Tweddle, Jaqui; Peccu, Ellen; Kannen, Andreas; Clarke, Stacey A.

Publication details

Journal: Journal of Environmental Management, vol. 278, 2021

Publisher: Academic Press

Issue: Part 2

International Standard Numbers:
Printed: 0301-4797
Electronic: 1095-8630

Open Access: none

Links:
DOI

Marine spatial planning (MSP) has rapidly become the most widely used integrated, place-based management approach in the marine environment. Monitoring and evaluation of MSP is key to inform best practices, adaptive management and plan iteration. While standardised evaluation frameworks cannot be readily applied, accounting for evaluation essentials such as the definition of evaluation objectives, indicators and stakeholder engagement of stakeholders is a prerequisite for meaningful evaluation outcomes. By way of a literature review and eleven practical MSP case studies, we analysed present day trends in evaluation approaches and unravelled the adoption of evaluation essentials for three categories for monitoring and evaluation for plan making, plan outcomes, and policy implementation. We found that at a global scale the focus of MSP evaluation has shifted over the past decade from evaluating predominantly plan outcomes towards the evaluation of plan making. Independent of the scope of the evaluation, evaluation approaches varied greatly from formal and structured processes, building for instance on MSP goals and objectives, to informal processes based on stakeholder interviews. We noted a trend in the adoption of formalised approaches where MSP evaluations have increasingly become linked to MSP policy goals and objectives. However, the enhanced use of MSP objectives and indicators did not result in a more straightforward reporting of outcomes, e.g. such as the achievement of specific MSP objectives. Overall, we found weak linkages between defined MSP objectives, indicators and available monitoring data. While the apparent shift towards a focus on objectives is promising, we highlight the need of fit-for-purpose monitoring data to enable effective evaluation of those objectives. Hence, effective MSP and adaptive management processes require customised and concurrent monitoring and evaluation strategies and procedures. We argue that evaluation processes would also benefit from a better understanding of the general environmental, socio-economic and socio-cultural effects of MSP. Therefore, to understand better environmental effects of MSP, we praise that forthcoming MSP processes need to deepen the understanding and considerations of cause-effect pathways between human activities and changes of ecosystem state through the adoption of targeted cumulative effects assessments.