2. We introduce the Baltic Health Index (BHI) as a transparent, collaborative, and repeatable assessment tool. The Index complements existing, more ecological-oriented, approaches by including a human dimension on the status of the Baltic Sea, an ecosystem impacted by multiple anthropogenic pressures and governed by a multitude of comprehensive national and international policies. Using a large amount of social-ecological data available, we assessed the health of the Baltic Sea for nine goals that represent the status towards set targets, e.g. clean waters, biodiversity, food provision, natural products extraction, and tourism.
3. Our results indicate that the overall health of the Baltic Sea is suboptimal (a score of 76 out of 100), and a substantial effort is required to reach the management objectives and associated targets. Subregionally, the lowest BHI scores were measured for carbon storage, contaminants and lasting special places (i.e., marine protected areas), albeit with large spatial variation.
4. Overall, the likely future status of all goals in the BHI averaged for the entire Baltic Sea is better than the present status, indicating a positive trend towards a healthier Baltic Sea. However, in some Baltic Sea basins, the trend for specific goals was decreasing, highlighting locations and issues that should be the focus of management priorities.
5. The BHI outcomes can be used to identify both pan-Baltic and subregional scale management priorities and to illustrate the interconnectedness between goals linked by cumulative pressures. Hence, the information provided by the BHI tool and its further development will contribute towards the fulfilment of the UN Agenda 2030 and its the Sustainable Development Goals.
- Social-ecological system
- Ecosystem-based management
- Management targets