Global Survey of Tools Used for Marine Spatial Planning, Round 3: The Other Tools People are Using

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By Sarah Carr

In our first blog, we reported on the tools that appear to be used most often for Marine Spatial Planning (e.g. GIS, Marxan, MarineMap, and SeaSketch). But our respondents who reported using tools (91 of the 124 total respondents) also named a vast array of other tools that are being used, or have been used, in MSP processes.

In this installment, we characterize and give examples of these “other tools” (tools reported as being used by one or two respondents) because they form a treasure trove of information and inspiration for MSP projects which are beginning to look at tools.

Like the tools that are used most often for MSP, many of the “other tools” are broadly applicable software or web-based applications, meaning they can be used in a wide variety of geographies and can often be used to help answer a range of questions. Some uses of these “other tools” include data discovery and integration, modeling ecological and socioeconomic processes, decision support, visualization, and stakeholder engagement in MSP processes. Examples of these tools include:

In addition to the broadly-applicable tools above, many regional web-based data discovery and integration, visualization, and analysis platforms are also being used in MSP processes. These tools typically provide less analytical functionality than the broader tools above. They are generally easier for end users to utilize, however, because they are already tailored to a specific geography (and sometimes a particular planning process) with appropriate data and analyses. Examples of these regional tools include:

Other survey respondents said they are using or have used relatively specialized tools such as those below. In many cases, these tools were used in conjunction with other tools (39 of the 91 respondents who reported using tools reported using multiple tools).

And finally, MSP processes are at their heart still planning processes, and need to utilize many of the same “tools” that have been used in marine conservation and management for decades (or longer). Examples of the tried and true include:

Many of these “tools” are likely used more broadly in MSP processes but were not considered tools by other respondents.


Thanks, Sarah, to you and your colleagues for this and the earlier two posts. They are very informative. I particularly appreciate the acknowledgement that 'tools' mean different things to different people. Broadening the definition of tools beyond the site selection and visualization software packages is incredibly important, if we are to learn as much as we can from past and ongoing spatial planning processes and adapt methods accordingly for the future. For another snapshot from the past, I recommend my review of 27 marine planning exercises, published in Conservation Biology in 2005.

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