Cumulative effects of human activities | JPI OCEANS

Cumulative effects of human activities

Joint Action Facts
Action period: May 2021 - December 2023
Strategic area:
  • Interdisciplinary Research for Good Environmental Status
Type of action:
  • Knowledge hub
Lead countries:
  • Norway
More Information
Secretariat Contact:

Ingeborg Korme (lead)

Willem De Moor



The main objective of this activity is to develop guidelines and common principles on how to assess cumulative effects of human activities, and this will be the task that the knowledge hub will deliver on. Target groups for the guidelines are authorities/policy makers who frequently take decisions/ give permits expected to be based on CEA’s, and scientists who need this tool for further research.


One of the ten areas of the JPI Oceans Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (2015-2020) concerns ‘Interdisciplinary Research for Good Environmental Status’, where cumulative effects of human activities are one of the activities. Our ability to protect ocean health can be increased by extending our knowledge about current and emerging environmental pressures such as pollution, overexploitation and climate change and their impacts across longer timescales, broader geographic scales, and all essential ecosystem components. Further key improvements can come from improving the tools for assessing the environmental impacts of pressures and the efficiency and socio-economic impact of measures to their reduction or elimination. This is even more essential when put in the context of cumulative effects assessments where the interactions between multiple activities, pressures and ecosystem components are investigated in a systemic way. (JPI Oceans Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda 2021).

Cumulative effects assessments (CEA) are holistic evaluations of the combined effects of human activities and natural processes on the environment in a defined area. The understanding of cumulative effects (synergistic, antagonistic and/or additive effects) and how to manage the causal human activities and pressures are still underdeveloped.

Notwithstanding the scientific challenges, different European directives (EIA, SEA, MSFD, WFD & Habitats directive) recommend or require a type of cumulative effects assessment (CEA). According to these directives, it is expected that responsible authorities make a CEA before allowing new activity in an area.  At sea, this would apply to expansion of ports, road embankments and new bridges, new sites for aquaculture, the establishment of wind turbines and so on. European authorities/policy makers at all levels often make decisions that require a CEA, and the countries have delt with this in different ways.  

There is a great demand for a common handbook/ procedure for how to implement a CEA. The development of such a guideline must be based on current research, and act as an ABC for users in how to proceed to create a CEA. This is a task that is very suitable for working across national borders and where JPI Oceans can make a special contribution.


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