SLU news

New tool launched on ocean impact in the Western Indian Ocean

Published: 29 May 2023

With a newly launched web-based tool – WIO Symphony – we can now analyse the cumulative environmental impacts of human activities and the outcome of different ocean management scenarios in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO). The tool can visualise the impact of various pressures on marine ecosystems and aid managers in marine spatial planning. SLU Aqua has been highly involved in the development of the tool and launched the tool together with collaborating partners at the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association Symposium in South Africa, in October 2022.

Human activities are increasing in marine and coastal areas in the WIO region, with e.g. allocation of ocean spaces for oil and gas exploitation and development of new ports. With exploitation and expansion comes conflicts for space between users, and between human activities and the environment. The WIO Symphony tool can help marine and coastal planners to assess the impact of ongoing and new ocean uses. In this way, the tool assists the process of ecosystem-based marine spatial planning, which can contribute to reducing some of the potential conflicts for space that may arise.

WIO Symphony is a practical web tool for cumulative environmental assessment, useful to marine spatial planners as well as marine managers and decision makers in ministries. The tool allows planners to compare outcomes of several alternative marine spatial plans in order to choose the most suitable one. The tool can improve management of marine resources by making visible what is present, what is vulnerable and which resources that would be impacted.

The WIO Symphony tool can visualise the impact of various pressures on marine ecosystems, e.g. the combined effects of fishing, ocean floor mining and shipping on different marine organisms, to aid managers in marine spatial planning. Source: The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management

The tool is based on more than 80 maps, using a 1×1 km resolution, of ecosystem components and the impact of human activities specific to the WIO. Coupled with a WIO-specific sensitivity matrix, that was developed by a regional expert panel, the tool indicates how vulnerable the ecosystems are to different pressures across the WIO region. More than 50 experts from the region and around the world have contributed with knowledge and data.

The WIO Symphony project has been running since 2020, led by the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM), in collaboration with SLU Aqua, the Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU), Gothenburg University (GU) and the Nairobi Convention. The tool will be hosted by the Nairobi Convention and is available to all its member states. Data is open access, allowing everyone to benefit from the WIO Symphony tool. 


Charlotte Berkström, Researcher
Department of Aquatic Resources, Institute of Coastal Research, SLU, +46 10 478 41 65