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A COMPREHENSIVE PICTURE: A science-based global assessment framework that evaluates current conditions comprehensively from social, economic, and environmental perspectives of oceans (Ocean Health Index) has for the first time been applied to the Baltic Sea.
The results show that coastal fish communities, livelihoods and economies score high in the index, while contaminants, protected areas, eutrophication, biodiversity and carbon storage score low.
The Baltic Health Index (BHI) assesses the health status of the Baltic Sea. It has been calculated by researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre in collaboration with scientists in California who have established the well-known global Ocean Health Index (OHI) framework.
We are very excited to see this first transnational, regional application of the Ocean Health Index for the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Health Index is a great tool for informing management actions and policy decisions.
Dr Ben Halpern, lead scientist for the Ocean Health Index
The index measures progress towards nine key societal ‘goals’ representing the benefits and services people expect a healthy Baltic Sea to provide.
The goals, such as eutrophication, contaminants, food provision, carbon storage, biodiversity, trash, tourism, artisanal fisheries, support of local economies, and protected areas, were chosen to reflect both the needs of humans and ocean sustainability from a Baltic Sea perspective.
By scoring them from 0-100, the BHI provides a comprehensive picture of the state of the Baltic Sea.
The Baltic Sea as a whole scores 76 out of a possible 100, with 100 being the overall management target.
“Any small county at the Baltic can use and adjust this tool to the local context and follow their management measures all in one which will help to measure the success of sustainable management on a system level”. This will be a helpful addition to the existing assessments,” says project leader and centre researcher Thorsten Blenckner.
One striking result is that even if most countries around the Baltic recognize the protection of marine and coastal habitats to be important, they remain inadequately managed.
“These areas have to be managed in a good way, including restrictions to harmful activities, in order to contribute to protect biodiversity and sustain coastal livelihoods and the blue economy”, adds Sofia Wikström, researcher at the Baltic Sea Centre, Stockholm University and lead scientist on protected areas within the BHI team.
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