Marine Activities and Pressures Evidence

There are a wide range of human activities that occur within the marine environment from the coastal and intertidal areas out to the deep-sea. A standard list of human activities that occur in the UK marine environment, and their definitions, has been collated by JNCC.

A pressure is the mechanism through which an activity has an effect on any part of the ecosystem. The nature of the pressure is determined by activity type, intensity and distribution. A  list of marine pressures and their descriptions was prepared by the OSPAR Intercessional Correspondence Group on Cumulative Effects (ICG-C) and the list of pressures is published within OSPAR Agreement 2014-02 ‘OSPAR Joint Assessment and Monitoring Programme (JAMP) 2014-2021’ (Table II).

Understanding the links between activities and the pressures they may cause is the first step in helping identify potential impacts on marine biodiversity. This information can then be combined with information on biodiversity sensitivity to these pressures to support areas such as:

  • Delivery of marine status assessment reporting obligations;
  • Provision of advice on operations for UK MPAs, to advise developers and regulators of the possible adverse impacts that an activity can have on an MPA’s features;
  • Application of the risk-based approach to marine biodiversity monitoring within UK waters.



Dredging (left and right) ©Tracy Edwards/JNCC; lobster creels ©Wendy Dalton/JNCC (middle).


The following tools have been developed to show the relationships between activities and pressures that could affect MPA features in inshore waters for England and Scotland:

  • Natural England’s Designated Sites System allows users to view the advice on operations for English inshore Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and Marine Conservation Zones. It identifies pressures associated with the most commonly occurring marine activities in English inshore waters, and provides a detailed assessment of the feature/subfeature, species or supporting habitat sensitivity to these pressures.
  • Marine Scotland/Scottish Natural Heritage’s Feature Activity Sensitivity Tool (FeAST) is the starting point for determining potential management requirements for Scottish Nature Conservation MPAs. FeAST enables users to explore what is known about MPA protected feature sensitivity to pressures and the marine activities that can cause them.


JNCC Pressures-Activities Database



For inshore and offshore waters UK-wide (within and outside of MPAs), JNCC have developed a pressures-activities database (PAD) which has compiled the evidence base for the relationships between 112 marine-based human activities and their associated pressures (based on the OSPAR pressure list). The PAD uses the information present within Natural England’s advice on operations, and supplements it with information on activities relevant to Scotland (based on FeAST) and a range of new activities that occur or may occur in UK waters. For full details on the PAD (2018) please download the associated methods report.


The JNCC PAD is a starting point to identify which pressures may be caused by which activities, and gives an indication of the general risk the pressures pose to the environment under normal conditions, which should be used in conjunction with all other available information on the MPA or region where the activity occurs. All activity-pressure relationships are backed up by available evidence. The database is under ongoing development, and any new evidence for activity-pressure relationships will be considered by JNCC for inclusion in the database if it meets the quality assurance standards. If you have any feedback or new evidence to add to the PAD, please email


                                                                                                                                                                                                        Click to download the Pressures-Activities Database

Click to access methods report


The database has four options, which you can select when you open the database:

1.   Show categories

2.   Show activities

3.   Show pressures

4.   Show activity-pressure relationships

Information in the database may be used under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0. Attribution statement: "Contains JNCC data © copyright and database right 2018".


1. Show categories

This button opens a table that shows the activity categories and their descriptions. These categories are based on the Standard List of Human Activities in the Marine Environment.


2.   Show activities

This button opens a table that shows the full list of activities and their descriptions. The activities listed have come from a range of sources including the Standard List of Human Activities in the Marine Environment, Natural England’s advice on operations and Marine Scotland/Scottish Natural Heritage’s FeAST tool. 


3.    Show pressures

This button opens a table that shows the list of pressures used in this project and their descriptions. This is taken from the  This is taken from the OSPAR  list of pressures


4. Show activity-pressure relationships

This button opens the full database. Data can be filtered based on category, activity and/or pressure to show the outputs of interest. The evidence base used for each activity-pressure relationship is shown in the ‘APJustificationDesc’ column. The Risk Profiling of Pressure (RPP) score indicates the general risk the pressures pose to the environment under normal conditions. The increased risk factor description is included for all ‘low risk’ pressures, detailing the circumstances in which the risk may increase.


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