Building resilience to climate change in marine social-ecological systems : A study on maritime spatial planning in Finland
Abstract: Resilience of marine ecosystems are diminished due to climate change and increased human activities at sea. In the European Union acknowledge the issues in the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP), and the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, which obligates member states to develop spatial plans for their coastal- and marine areas. The aim of the maritime spatial plans (MSP) is to promote sustainable blue growth within the marine sector by applying an ecosystem-based approach. One of the objectives of the directive is to encourage member states to enhance resilience to climate change in their plans. This study investigates how maritime spatial plans can enhance resilience against climate change in practice. The issue is approached by evaluating how maritime spatial planning can address general social-ecological resilience principles developed within resilience literature. Data for the evaluation is collected by interviews conducted with regional maritime spatial planners and experts. The study has special focus on the Finnish maritime spatial planning process and is limited to the Gulf of Bothnia where climate change impacts already has been observed, and significant future impacts are expected. The results indicate that there are possibilities to enhance resilience against climate change through MSP. Particularly due to its participatory process which facilitates sharing of experiences, knowledge, innovation and learning between governance scales and stakeholders. The resulting plan itself can potentially enhance resilience of the vulnerable ecosystem by spatially allocating human induced pressures and enhancing habitat connectivity. The strategical character of the maritime spatial plan and the fact that the plan will not be legally binding, facilitates an opportunity for an innovative approach to dealing with climate change in spatial planning. However, the successfulness of the plans depends on the willingness to allocate resources for learning and exploration of the opportunities introduced by MSP.
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