Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

Interactions between multiple users and sectors

In addition to reporting individual drivers of change, it was critical for VECTORS to consider interactions between multiple users and sectors and possible conflicts in terms of resource exploitation from different sectors, with specific reference to the VECTORS target areas of concern; outbreaks, invasive species, and changes in species distribution and productivity.

The nature of interactions can be considered as follows:

  • Neutral: Factor 1 has no effect on Factor 2
  • Additive: The effects of Factor 1 and Factor 2 are additive
  • Synergistic: The combined effect of Factor 1 and Factor 2 exceeds the sum of their additive individual effects
  • Interference: The combined effect of Factor 1 and Factor 2 is less than the sum of their individual effects
Possible interactions between pressures for the North Sea system

Figure 1: Possible interactions between pressures for the North Sea system. These are subjective expert assessments which are “average” effects and do not preclude specific interactions that vary from the suggested model. The colour indicates the nature of the interaction (Neutral, Additive, Synergistic, or Interference) but there is no indication of the effect being “good” (wind farms in association with protected areas) or “bad” (litter impacting on tourism). This is case dependant.

These interactions can lead to constraints and enhancements in the development of single sectors and will influence the net pressures on the VECTORS areas of concern. In predictive terms, the first two responses are easier to deal with, while the latter two are more conceptually awkward. However, this classification of interactions does not imply either beneficial or damaging overall effects, for example some enhancements (additive or synergistic) might be considered “a good thing” (i.e. increased primary productivity). The consequences of most interactions will depend on local context and thus the nature, scale and dynamics of the habitat must also be considered. Conceptually, this is moving towards “the ecosystem approach” as advocated in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. These context-dependant interactions represent a particular difficulty in terms of transferring the scientific knowledge into policy mechanisms1.

The VECTORS deliverable D1.22 begins with a subjective assessment of the interactions (Fig. 1) and briefly describes the most important uses of the marine environment and their interactions, as well as the existing and the potentially arising conflicts in the VECTORS European regional seas.

VECTORS research focus:

  1. The main uses in the sea-areas addressed within the scope of VECTORS include fisheries, oil/gas extraction, maritime passenger and goods transport, offshore wind farms, cables and pipelines, defence, biodiversity conservation, sand and gravel extraction, coastal infrastructures, as well as tourism and leisure uses.
  2. The current development of Marine Protected Areas will be updated, with examples of successful intersectional collaboration and/or transnational co-operation.
  3. A critical issue is developing conflicts of use and how spatial planning can contribute to their resolution (synergies with other EU projects).
  4. The main interaction, with respect to VECTORS take place between the broad categories of conservation (threatened species) and exploitation (fisheries, waterborne traffic, industry, in/off-shore infrastructures, etc.) with further concern over interference between economic activities. Among the main pressures, it is important to highlight fisheries and resource overexploitation, pollution from different sources, energy production and transport as well as spatial occupancy and maintenance and expansion of navigation routes.
  5. Interactions represent a particular difficulty in terms of the transfer of scientific knowledge into policy mechanisms1.
  6. In most cases, individual locations are affected by more than a single vector (multi-vector effects).


Lead Author

David Paterson

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The content of this website may be subject to copyright, if you wish to use any of the information or figures please contact the attributed author(s).
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

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