The article of Emanuele Bigagli: The EU legal framework for the management of marine complex social–ecological systems, has been pubished in Marine Policy 54 (2015) 44–51.
This paper evaluates the European Union (EU) legal framework for the management of marine complex, adaptive systems. The entire EU legal framework, consisting of 12421 Directives, Regulations and Decisions, is reviewed against a framework of reference, grounded on the theoretical approaches of Adaptive Management and Transition Management. According to this framework, marine complex systems management should: (1) be calibrated at the scale of social–ecological systems; (2) aim to achieve or maintain their ecological resilience; and (3) implement iterative, learning-based management strategies, supported by periodical assessments and monitoring. The results show that the EU legislation does not provide a fully coherent framework for the implementation of a complex systems approach to the management of EU marine social–ecological systems. Although the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) is a major step towards this purpose, the present research highlights three major limitations: (1) the limited capacity of the MSFD to support the coordination between Member States sharing the same marine region or sub-region; (2) the insufficient characterisation of marine ecological resilience, in particular in relation to socio-economic elements, ecosystem services, human benefits and cross-scale interactions; and (3) the limited capacity of the MSFD to tackle the fragmentation of the EU legal framework and prioritise complexity and ecological resilience over sectorial approaches.
Keywords: European Union law; Complex systems; Marine social–ecological systems; Ecological resilience; MSFD