CORDIS - EU research results

European lifestyles and marine ecosystems

Final Report Summary - ELME (European Lifestyles and Marine Ecosystems)

European landmass is intertwined with the seas that virtually surround it, whose area exceeds that of the continent's land. European seas contributed in shaping the history and economy of western societies. In spite of their importance and the numerous observations of the declining state of marine ecosystems, few studies have attempted to link this situation with European lifestyles. The ELME project was specifically designed to explore this relationship.

The project focussed on four major European sea areas, namely the Baltic, Black Sea, Mediterranean and northeast Atlantic and examined cross-cutting environmental issues such as habitat change, eutrophication, chemical pollution and fishing. Conceptual and statistical models were developed for this analysis, including several alternatives regarding the future economic and social welfare. Various linkages between lifestyle and marine ecosystems were also defined and included in the simulations. The selected ELME scenarios represented a synthesis of well established precedents since no individual study could meet all project requirements.

Understanding the pressures on marine ecosystems through economic drivers was a vital part of defining appropriate policy responses. Equally important was the identification of the underlying forces that motivated and shaped the development of these drivers.

The research confirmed the serious state of decline of European regional seas, particularly if the complex interactions between different human pressures were taken into account. In most cases the species that exploited the imposed pressures were either low in the food chain or opportunistic and undesirable ones. This was anticipated to severely compromise future options for economic benefits from the sea use and maintenance of its biodiversity. The future condition of each sea was confirmed to be closely associated with the economic options that were likely to be pursued, the transport of goods to and from other parts of the world and the European regulatory framework.

the results of this study referred to the overall changing status of each regional European sea, as well as to interrelated issues, emerging problems and the needs for future work. Urgent challenges were identified and had to be addressed in the short term so as to implement the concept of ecosystem-based management that was envisaged in draft European regulations. It appeared that failure to take additional actions to support the comprehensive assessment and management of regional seas would probably result in continuing degradation and a loss of opportunity to reverse its harmful effects.