AMP Toolbox

DPSWR framework
Step 1- Set the scene
Activity 1.2- Information gathering and determining existing conditions

To establish a framework to link the effects that socio-economic uses of the marine environment have in the marine ecosystems as well as the effects that the degradation of the marine environment have on human wellbeing; and to identify and implement measures when necessary.


The DPSWR (Drivers, Pressures, State, Welfare and Response) framework is an analytical framework to systematically analyse environmental problems and identify measures to manage these problems. In fact, it can be useful to understand and edge the Ecosystem Approach and represent the various steps of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. 

The Driving Forces (Drivers) are the activities and social factors driving these activities, that use the marine waters (directly or/and indirectly). The use of marine waters puts pressure on the marine environment in various ways. The pressures change or have a changing impact on the state of the environment, which subsequently change or impact the ecosystem goods and services provided and the wellbeing of humans. Society can decide to Respondrespond by acting on the Driving Forces, Pressures, State and Welfare by implementing measures and incentives (i.e. policy instruments).

Figure 1: DPSWR framework. Key: Blue and green represent human and ecological parts, respectively, of the socio-ecological systems. Adapted from:

The definition of each information category, according to Cooper (2012) is the following:

DRIVER- an activity or process intended to enhance human welfare
PRESSURE- a means by which at least one driver causes or contributes to a change in State.
STATE (change) - an attribute or a set of attributes of the natural environment that reflects integrity as regards a specified issue (or change therein).
WELFARE- A change in human welfare attributable to a change in State.
RESPONSE- An initiative intended to reduce at least one impact (a change in State or Welfare).
Although the framework is useful to set the response of the society to the environmental issue concerned, this activity (i.e. Information gathering and determining existing conditions) comprises particularly the assessment of the relationship between human activities and the changes or impacts that these human activities cause in the environment and in welfare. Therefore, we particularly refer to the Drivers, Pressures, State and Welfare components. This information will be necessary to design and select the Responses to be completed in subsequent steps.

The importance of the DPSWR lies on the fact that it accounts for the socio-economic aspects or human activities, for the ecological systems and the interactions between them. This makes the environmental decision-making process more retractable.

However, given the interdisciplinary character of the approach and the different information categories that need to be addressed, it is important to collect exclusively the data necessary to manage the decision-making processes. Furthermore, only collect data at the level of detail that is necessary and at an appropriate scale given the resources available and the importance of the issues being addressed. What is appropriate in one situation may not be appropriate in another, even if pressure is addressed. Spending too much on data collection is just as inappropriate as spending too little.

Several socio-ecological accounting frameworks exist to organise information on human-environment interactions and to support policy development and decision making. Although some concepts have been inherited, the information categories have been evolving continuously.
The Pressure-State-Response (PSR) framework was developed by Anthony Friend in the 1970s, and subsequently adopted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This framework states that human activities exert pressures on the environment, which can induce changes in the state of the environment; society then responds to changes in pressures or state with environmental and economic policies and programmes.

The DPSIR framework is an extension of the PSR and its information categories are structured around the definitions of the European Environmental Agency (EEA). These information categories include:

Driver-Social, demographic and economic developments in societies and the corresponding changes in life styles;
Pressure-Developments in release of substances, physical and biological agents, the use of resources and the use of land;
State-Condition of different environmental compartments and systems in physical, chemical or biological variables;
Impact-Impacts on human beings, ecosystems and man-made capital resulting from changes in environmental quality;
Response-Responses to prevent, compensate, ameliorate or adapt to changes in the state of the environment.

The main difference between the DPSWR framework and its predecessor (i.e. DPSIR) lies in the fact that the term Welfare is adopted to make a clear distinction between environmental impacts and the changes or impacts on human welfare. Accordingly, changes or impacts on ecosystems are moved to the State category and impacts or changes to human wellbeing are renamed as Welfare. In addition, The Response to a particular problem may be directed towards any of the other elements (D,P,S or W) to achieve a balance between the benefits of economic and social development and the ecosystem costs.

The determination of data collection should be carried out in conjunction with the selection of operational objectives and indicators. This will ensure that the data collection systems are relevant to management and not collecting data that have no influence on management decision-making processes.
In addition, gaps and uncertainties in the knowledge should be extracted and transferred in a structured way for the next framework steps.

Medium - high. In general, the level of usage as well as the majority of the criteria described below will have a significant range of variation, since the information required and categorised in each one of the different information categories (Drivers, Pressures, State and Welfare) can be achieved at different levels of detail. However, it is an integrative and challenging framework which in all cases would a significant level of requirements.

Moderate - high. The costs of data collecting and categorising will vary greatly depending upon the level of detail intended to achieve.

Moderate - high. Data collection and particularly data categorisation and analysis to fill in the Drivers, Pressures, State changes, Impacts on Welfare and Responses requires expert judgment.

Background requirements
Moderate - high. Although the framework can be easily interpreted and previous experience is not required, data on the human activities and associated pressures, changes in State and impacts on Welfare within a study area are needed.

Low - moderate Data determination within information categories as well as the links among them is likely to be performed by the relevant expert group with some inputs from key stakeholders and end-users (e.g. to identify existing or potential conflicts among different users or ecosystem components).

Time range
Moderate - high. It will depend on the available data and chosen methods (e.g. qualitative assessments based on expert judgment or quantitative indicators) within each of the information categories (i.e. Drivers, Pressures, State and Welfare).

Source of information