The systems approach framework for collaborative, science-based management of complex systems

  • Josianne G. Støttrup
  • Grete E. Dinesen
  • Johanna Schumacher
  • Christina Gillgren
  • Miguel Inácio
  • Gerald Schernewski


Sustainable management of coastal systems can only be achieved with an effective science-policy interface that integrates the three pillars of sustainable development: environmental protection, social progress and economic growth. The Systems Approach Framework (SAF) provides a structure to guide such a process by embracing the challenge of assessing complex systems for scenario simulations to support potential policy decisions. Based on applications of the SAF in six Baltic Sea case studies within the BONUS BaltCoast project, the SAF was revisited and further developed. Two additional steps were introduced partly to enhance implementation and decision validation and partly to facilitate the reiterative process with the addition of monitoring and evaluation. The SAF now includes six steps (Issue Identification, System Design, System Formulation, System Assessment, Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation). A list of actions for each step clearly defines what needs to be done before progressing to the next SAF step. Activities within each step were improved to better integrate governance - citizen collaboration and improve the science-policy interface. Three auxiliary tools, developed in the BONUS BaltCoast project to support particular actions, were integrated in the different steps to facilitate application of the SAF by practitioners and scientists alike. The added focus on the stakeholder participation resulted in further actions being listed in the new steps to maintain stakeholder engagement and counteract stakeholder fatigue. The revised SAF is presented and discussed together with lessons learned from the different applications in five Baltic Sea study sites.


Integrated coastal management Stakeholder engagement Science-policy System analyses 



This work was mostly funded by the BONUS BALTCOAST project. BONUS BALTCOAST has received funding from BONUS (Art 185) funded jointly from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration, and from the Baltic Sea national funding institutions, InnovationsFonden, Denmark and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany (BMBF 03F0717A). We would like to thank our colleagues from BONUS BaltCoast for their input to testing and developing the SAF and supportive tools.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DTU Aqua, National Institute of Aquatic ResourcesTechnical University of DenmarkKongens LyngbyDenmark
  2. 2.Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research WarnemündeRostockGermany
  3. 3.Gillgren and AssociatesBictonAustralia
  4. 4.Marine Science InstituteKlaipeda UniversityKlaipedaLithuania

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