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Cross-boundary and inter-sectorial solutions for ecosystem-based marine spatial planning: the Symphony method
by Sweden (Government)
This voluntary commitment has the objective of underpinning true ecosystem-based Marine Spatial Planning in Sweden and neighboring waters through the integration of semi-quantitative spatial assessments of the cumulative environmental impact in the planning process and stakeholder consultations. In short:
With the Symphony method marine planners can easily assess the expected environmental impact of any drafted plan through a science-based and transparent spatial analysis.
By integrating this information in the planning process and dialogue, sustainable solutions can be identified and more easily adopted.

Rationale and concept of use
Ecosystem-based Marine Spatial Planning (i.e. MSP under an Ecosystem Approach) implies that the planning of economic activities in the sea is carried out with the strong consideration of ecological boundaries and based on cross-boundary analyses and collaborations. The Symphony-method enables MSP to account for the spatially confined cumulative impact from all concurrent human activities in an area on a representation of all present ecosystem values. With the method the marine planners can quickly and straightforwardly assess the cumulative (total) environmental impact of any drafted plan and use the results to modify the plans where needed, in dialogue with involved stakeholders.
The method is truly inter-sectorial and allows for estimating the relative contribution of environmental impact from each sector (e.g. fisheries, shipping, energy and mineral mining) in any defined area. This information is of particular value for solving conflicts where there are multiple sectorial claims on ocean space in ecologically sensitive areas. Furthermore the method generates semi-quantitative spatial representations not only of environmental impact but also ecological values and sensitivity.

Methodology, transparency and validation
The Symphony-method is based on established scientific methodology (Halpern et al 2008, Science 319) and involves three major components:
Maps of pressures from human activities (e.g. shipping, fishing and pollution)
Maps of ecosystem components (e.g. fish, mammals, benthic communities)
Sensitivity index describing the level of impact from each pressure to each ecosystem component
All maps are based on already existing data, modelled across a spatial grid of high geographical resolution and with quantified data uncertainties. The cumulative impact is calculated as the summed products of the intensity of each pressure, ecosystem component and corresponding sensitivity score, for each spatial entity (grid cell). All parts of the analysis including spatial models, sensitivity scores and the resulting impact is transparent and assumptions are easy to access and scrutinize. Model uncertainties are spatially represented. The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management has fine-tuned and adapted the method for use in the Baltic Sea context and has developed the link to MSP, with the desktop option of calculating the impact of different spatial plans. Data and results have been validated through expert and stakeholder review.
The Symphony method is applicable for MSP in any part of the world but also for strategic environmental assessments and many marine management applications. Data availability determines the level of confidence in the method. Even in data scarce region the method can be valuable for decision guiding broad scale assessments.
Progress reports
By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
Type of commitment
  • Other (please specify): Spatial assessment of the contribution of eutrophication to cumulative environmental impact
  • Other (please specify): Spatial assessment of the contribution of shipping related pressures to cumulative environmental impact in Swedish waters and facilitating for MSP related mitigation measures
OTHER POLLUTANTS (please specify)
  • Other (please specify): Spatial assessment of the contribution of pollution to cumulative environmental impact in Swedish waters
  • The contribution from each source to the cumulative environmental impact is estimated from a spatial perspective
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
  • Marine Spatial Planning
  • Ecosystem-based Adaptation
  • Cumulative impact reductions related to Marine Spatial Planning are estimated (semi-quantitatively)
Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels
Type of commitment
  • Other (please specify): Spatial assessment of the contribution of ocean acidification to cumulative environmental impact in Swedish waters
  • The contribution from ocean acidification to the cumulative environmental impact is estimated from a spatial perspective
By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
Type of commitment
  • Other (please specify): Spatial assessment of the contribution of fishing to cumulative environmental impact
  • The contribution from fishing to the cumulative environmental impact is estimated from a spatial perspective
By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
Type of commitment
  • No take marine protected area
  • Marine protected area with partial protection
  • Multiple use marine protected area
Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
Type of commitment
  • Other (please specify): Method development for science-based holistic marine management, here in terms of ecosystem-based Marine Spatial Planning
Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want
Type of commitment
  • Strengthening ocean governance, for example through the development of a national ocean policy or regional ocean policy
December 2017
First report of using the method in Swedish MSP
June 2019
Update of the method and continued use within Swedish MSP
May 2017
Baseline assessment of cumulative environmental impact in Swedish waters
October 2017
Using the Symphony method in drafting of marine plans (MSP).
Staff / Technical expertise
Map compilations based on existing data, external consultancies: USD 200 000.
Staff / Technical expertise
Method development, Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management: USD 100 000.
Staff / Technical expertise
Software development, external university partner: USD 50 000.
Basic information
Time-frame: September 2015 - December 2019
The Swedish Government in cooperation with the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (government, lead partner), Geological Survey of Sweden (government, partner), Helcom Helsinki Commission (other intergovernmental organization, advisory), Chalmers University of Technology (academic institution, advisory), NIVA Denmark (private sector, advisory), NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (government, advisory), UCSB University of California Santa Barbara (academic institution, advisory)
Ocean Basins
  • North Atlantic
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
The Symphony method for ecosystem-based marine spatial planning (MSP) is developed by Sweden with advisory support from USA, Denmark, and the intergovernmental body Helcom. The method is now under consideration in several other countries in the Baltic Sea
Contact information
Linus Hammar, Senior Advisor, linus.hammar@havochvatten.se, +46 106986115
Gothenburg, Sweden
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