Identifying and addressing the anthropogenic drivers of global change in the North Sea: a systematic map protocol


Anthropogenic pressures on marine ecosystems have increased over the last 75 years and are expected to intensify in the future with potentially dramatic cascading consequences for human societies. It is therefore crucial to rebuild marine life-support systems and aim for future healthy ecosystems. Nowadays, there is a reasonable understanding of the impacts of human pressure on marine ecosystems; but no studies have drawn an integrative retrospective analysis of the marine research on the topic. A systematic consolidation of the literature is therefore needed to clearly describe the scientific knowledge clusters and gaps as well as to promote a new era of integrative marine science and management. We focus on the five direct anthropogenic drivers of biodiversity loss defined by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES): (1) climate change; (2) direct exploitation; (3) pollution; (4) biological invasions; and (5) sea-use change. Our systematic map’s regional focus lies on the North Sea, which is among the most impacted marine ecosystems around the globe. The goal of the present study is to produce the first comprehensive overview of how marine research on anthropogenic drivers in the North Sea has grown and changed over the past 75 years. Ultimately, this systematic map will highlight the most urgent challenges facing the North Sea research domain.


The search will be restricted to peer-reviewed articles, reviews, meta-analyses, book chapters, book reviews, proceeding papers and grey literature using the most relevant search engines for literature published between 1945 and 2020. All authors will participate in the adjustment of the search in order to consider all relevant studies analyzing the effect of the direct anthropogenic drivers on the North Sea marine ecosystem. The references will be screened for relevance according to a predefined set of eligibility/ineligibility criteria by a pool of six trained reviewers. At stage one, each abstract and title will be independently screened by two reviewers. At stage two, potentially relevant references will be screened in full text by two independent reviewers. Subsequently, we will extract a suite of descriptive meta-data and basic information of the relevant references using the SysRev platform. The systematic map database composed will provide the foundation for an interactive geographical evidence map. Moreover, we will summarize our findings with cross-validation plots, heat maps, descriptive statistics, and a publicly available narrative synthesis. The aim of our visualization tools is to ensure that our findings are easily understandable by a broad audience.


Climate change, Direct exploitation, Pollution, Biological invasions, Sea-use change, Anthropocene, Marine ecosystem, Research gap, Research trend, Evidence-based

In progress