“Hotspots” of land-sea interactions, 2009


Observations for policy

Maritime regions with high or even very high intensity in land-sea interactions can be found in all parts of Europe. However, differences exist with regards to seaward and landward intensity. With regards to landward intensity, different types of areas show a high economic significance of the maritime sector. This applies to comparatively densely populated areas with a long coastline like Northern Italy or the UK, and to many European islands.

The seaward intensity is particularly high in straits, channels and areas in the vicinity of densely populated regions. With regards to flow, this results from European and global connectivity of coastal and hinterland areas as origins of goods, services, information and people that have to be transported. These flows cause intense human use of marine areas and thus results in high environmental pressure.

In comparison to seaward maritime flows and environmental pressures, the landward economic significance varies more considerably between European regions. This implies that many regions are affected by maritime activities even though the maritime sector does not play an important role for their economy.

Policy context

The Territorial Agenda 2020 addresses maritime activities as essential for territorial cohesion in Europe and establishes that Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) should be integrated into the existing planning systems. On the same line, the EU Integrated Maritime Policy calls for MSP in order to enable harmonious and sustainable development of a land-sea continuum.

Currently, there is a growing competition for maritime space for renewable energy infrastructures, aquaculture, and other activities with the potential of fostering the so-called ‘blue economy’ such as underwater mining, sea transport and fisheries. This has highlighted the need for a more integrated management across different sectors and across the land-sea divide, to avoid potential conflict and create synergies between different maritime activities.

Besides the economic aspects, the marine environment is still an undervalued component of the European space. Its associated risks and opportunities need to be better understood and more effectively managed in an integrated manner to ensure that marine resources can better contribute to the European strategic goals of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Map interpretation

The map displays the maritime regions according to their degree of land-sea interactions. Thus, the Channel and Southern parts of the North Sea are showcased as the Core maritime region of Europe. It reflects the concentration of population and economic activity in the London, Paris, Amsterdam axis, the presence of mega ports such as Rotterdam and channels such as the North Sea and Baltic canal, harbouring one of the main trade routes between Europe and the rest of the world.

Besides the North Sea and the Channel, other areas with strong land-sea interactions can be found in the UK which spans both the Atlantic and the North Sea, and in Northern Italy which spans both the Adriatic and the Mediterranean Sea. Furthermore, many islands like Iceland, the Canary and the Balearic Islands, Malta, Cyprus, Crete and other Greek islands show a high degree of such interactions. The Gulf of Finland, and single regions in Portugal (Lisbon, Algarve), Spain (Bilbao) and Eastern Bulgaria at the Black Sea are regional hotspots that also show considerable interactions.

As far as landward intensities are concerned, a concentration of regions showing high economic significance of the maritime sector can be identified in the UK, Western Norway, Central and Northern Italy, the Spanish Basque country, Northeast Bulgaria, Estonia and Latvia. With regards to seaward intensity, i.e. flows and environmental pressures, all European seas are affected. Especially the Western parts of the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea and wide parts of the Baltic Sea stand out, whereas at the Atlantic and the Black Sea only regional hotspots like the Canary Islands, Bilbao or Lisbon can be identified.

Concepts and methods

The typology of land-sea interaction synthesises three different types of information. The economic significance of employment in maritime sectors is used to describe the intensity of landward influences, while maritime flows and environmental pressures are combined to describe the level of seaward influences.

More concretely, the following indicators are used:

  1. Economic Significance: Employment in fisheries, in shipbuilding, in other traditional maritime sectors, in other sectors associated with the maritime cluster, in transport, and in tourism;
  2. Maritime Flows: Economic influence of container ports, Economic influence of cruise ports, Marine exposure due to liquid bulk shipping, Undersea cable influence;
  3. Environmental Pressures: Pollution from pesticides (organic inputs), Pollution from fertilisers (inorganic inputs), Incidence of invasive species.

This was the first time an ESPON project considered marine space as integral to European territories leading to some challenges related to the quantity and quality of available data. Multiple sources have been consulted and used and data gathered is therefore related to multiple years with a main focus on 2008 and 2009.