New database open for HELCOM protected areas in the Baltic Sea
As there are currently already 174 HELCOM MPAs covering 12% of the marine area, making the Baltic Sea a pioneering region, a more sophisticated search function as well as map interface are important improvements to the database. New data sections have also been added: information on human pressures to MPAs, such as damage to seabed or input of sound, and regulated human activities, such as aquaculture, tourism or urban developments.
Information details added in the database concern threat categories and monitoring of species, biotopes and biotope complexes within HELCOM MPAs. Another practical feature is direct links which have been added for each MPA to other relevant databases such as Natura 2000, OSPAR, Important Bird Areas (Birdlife), World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) and Ramsar.
The HELCOM MPA database is among the first ones where information on several management plans can be displayed for one MPA, which fits a clear need as many of these MPAs have several management plans established for different purposes. Another new feature in the database is information about national protection status, which is important for understanding the different legal aspects provided by overlapping national protection networks. Moreover, HELCOM MPA database stands out among other similar databases on regional and global levels, particularly since the information is current and has a vast coverage.
HELCOMs persistent work on coastal and marine Baltic Sea protected areas will now continue as the assessment of ecological coherence of MPAs is expecting release early next year. The assessment of ecological coherence is made possible through the information compiled in the MPA database.