One of the main prerequisites of successful stakeholder engagement in maritime spatial planning (MSP) is providing access to the best available knowledge – data about the marine space and maritime activities, as well as the ways in which they impact each other, the marine ecosystems and the services that they provide. The research team behind BONUS BASMATI has worked to harmonize the collection and use of MSP data in planning processes in the Baltic Sea Region and launched a prototype of the Baltic Explorer, a new interactive tool for real-time data flows between stakeholders.
Better insights for everyone involved
The idea behind the Baltic Explorer is to support more transparent and interactive use of data in stakeholder involvement in maritime spatial planning. The aim is to enable everyone involved to participate more actively in the planning process and strengthen the quality and consistency of the decision-making. The platform has been developed as part of BONUS BASMATI, a research project on maritime spatial planning and marine and coastal ecosystem services in the Baltic Sea Region.
Juha Oksanen of the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute in Finland is one of the people behind the Baltic Explorer, which has already been put to use in maritime spatial planning in the Baltic Sea. Oksanen says that the improved insight that the Baltic Explorer provides translates into stronger stakeholder engagement and is likely to lead to greater acceptance of the final outcome.
“The Baltic Explorer is an interactive GIS application that enables planning authorities and other stakeholders to collect, manage and visualise all data relevant to the maritime spatial planning process,” Oksanen explains. “It’s a multi-devise cloud application, which means that anyone who wishes to contribute to the planning dialogue can do so from their own device, whether a computer, tablet or smartphone. All participants in a stakeholder meeting can add features and data layers to the map and analyse these data in real-time.”
The Baltic Explorer is designed to assemble data from a range of official sources, such as the national marine and water management agencies and HELCOM, the Baltic Environment Protection Commission, but also from various project data servers. As an example, the data from the three BONUS BASMATI case studies, which concern local, cross-border and regional maritime spatial planning processes in the Baltic Sea Region, have been made available through the platform.
“In the Latvian case study, the Baltic Explorer was applied to visualise the seabed in order to re-assess the location of Marine Protected Areas off the shore of Latvia, as well as to identify new ones to protect the valuable benthic habitats in the area,” says Pyry Kettunen, Senior Research Scientist at NLS – the National Land Survey of Finland. “The stakeholders can apply different data layers and set thresholds, in this case, for example, the percentage of hard substrate in the Baltic Sea. This enables the stakeholders to assess the sea areas and find appropriate sites for different purposes.”