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The ESPON 2013 Operational Programme
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Typology of European maritime regions

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  • Land-sea interactions are important to understand both socio-economic profiles of regions, but also flows and environmental pressures at the sea. Here, the English Channel and North Sea represent the core maritime region of Europe
  • Just as important, there are a number of regional hubs that perform well as maritime clusters due to the concentration of land-sea interactions
  • Beyond regional hot-spots there is a number of transition areas with more local and land sea interactions that frequently relate to smaller ports and tourist destinations
  • Maritime economy is changing and traditional activities are being replaced by other activities with spatially differentiated implications

Observations for policy

Land-sea interactions are important to understand both socio-economic profiles of regions, and flows and environmental pressures at the sea. These interactions are two-way and dynamic processes that link coastal regions to inshore waters.

The growing capitalisation on maritime resources leads to new and more intensive development pressures. The maritime economy is changing as traditional activities mature and eventually decline, and whilst new activities reach the development phase. This will have spatially differentiated implications that are poorly understood.

The typology illustrated in this map shows the dominance of the traditional European core, including the most intense maritime activity that stretches from the English Channel to Southern North Sea.

Policy context

In policy and business there is a growing awareness that the seas are a context which can help governments to accomplish development aspirations as regards to transportation, energy, and environmental policies.

However, increasing opportunities for human use of the sea are set alongside growing realisation of the complexity of land-use interactions and the awareness of risks that the new focus on marine areas pose to both ecological and human well-being.

Map interpretation

The map shows a typology of maritime regions and particular hotspots concerning the economic significance of land regions and environmental pressure and flows on the seas. It highlights the significance of the English Channel and southern parts of the North Sea as the core maritime region of Europe. Overall this is where land sea interactions concentrate their potential in terms of population and economic activity, particularly in London-Paris-Amsterdam axis, but also along the port of Rotterdam as major hub of trade routes between Europe and the rest of the world.

Beyond the core area the map shows a number of regional hubs which relate to significant concentrations of strong land sea interactions. These are home to important maritime clusters that very often relate to more than one European sea. The British-Irish regional hub spans from the Atlantic to the North Sea while the hub related to Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark covers both North and Baltic Seas. Beyond these hot-spots lies a transition area where land sea interactions are still locally significant due to the presence of regional ports and tourism destinations. This holds true for Eastern parts of the Mediterranean sea but in general all European seas reflect these sort of interactions. Much of the remaining maritime areas are classified as rural as they reflect low levels of human use. This is particular striking in the West coast of Ireland as well as in the Azores Islands. Currently, the Arctic is the only area characterised as wilderness.

Overall, transition, rural and wilderness areas have less diverse maritime economy and rely on few core activities such as fishing and tourism, although there are some important transport links in the case of transition regions.

聽Concepts and methods

The typology draws upon three composite pictures that help distinguish patterns in the current overall intensity of land sea interactions. These three pictures are as follows: maritime employment, environmental pressure and flows.


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