The Dpsir Analytical Framework

To structure thinking about the interplay between the environment and socioeconomic activities, the EEA uses the driving force, pressure, state, impact, and response (DPSIR) framework, a slightly extended version of the well-known Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) model (Figure 8.1). This is used to help design assessments, identify indicators, and communicate results and can support improved environmental monitoring and information collection.

According to the DPSIR system analysis view, social and economic developments drive changes that exert pressure on the environment; consequently, changes occur in the state of the environment. This leads to impacts on, for example, human health, ecosystem functioning, materials (such as historic buildings), and the economy, where impacts refers to information on the relevance of the changes in the state of the envi-

Dpsir Framework

Figure 8.1. DPSIR framework for reporting on environmental issues (courtesy of the EEA).

Figure 8.1. DPSIR framework for reporting on environmental issues (courtesy of the EEA).

ronment. Finally societal responses are made that can affect earlier parts of the system directly or indirectly. Many assessments and sets of environmental indicators used by national and international bodies refer to or use directly this DPSIR framework or a subset or extension of it (see the EEA's core set of indicators [CSI]).1

The first indicator framework commonly known is the stress—response framework, developed by two scientists working at Statistics Canada, Anthony Friend and David Rapport (personal communication, 1979). Their STress Response Environmental Statistical System (STRESS) framework was based on ecosystem behavior distinguishing between environmental stress (pressures on the ecosystem), the state of the ecosystem, and the ecosystem response (e.g., algal blooms in reaction to higher availability of nutrients). However, the original ideas encompassed all kinds of responses.

When the STRESS framework was presented to the OECD, the ecosystem response was taken out in order to make the concept acceptable to the OECD. The rephrasing of response to stand only for societal response led to the OECD pressure, state, response (PSR) model. Pressures encompassed all releases or abstractions by human activities of substances, radiation and other physical disturbances, and species in or from the environment. State was initially limited to the concentrations of substances and distribution of species.

Because environmental statisticians dealt not only with PSR categories, an early DPSIR model came into use at various statistical offices in the early 1990s as an organizing principle for environment statistics. This framework for statistics described human activities, pressures, state of the environment, impacts on ecosystems, human health and materials, and responses. The Dobris Assessment (EEA 1995a) was also built on this idea.

With the development of the large environmental models Regional Air Pollution INformation and Simulation Model (RAINS) and Integrated Model to Assess the Global Environment (IMAGE) by the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA) and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the DPSIR model became further formalized, with a precise differentiation between driving forces, pressures, the resulting state of systems, the impacts (including economic), and policy responses. However, it was the EEA that made the simplified DPSIR framework more widely known in Europe. The RIVM report "A general strategy for integrated environmental assessment at the EEA" (EEA 1995b) provided the analytical basis for the DPSIR framework. It was accepted by the EEA Management Board at that time as the basis for integrated environmental assessment.

Over the past 20 years, the analytical framework has developed from a tool to describe natural ecosystems under stress to an overall framework for analyzing many different environmental problems. Furthermore, the DPSIR model has not only been useful as a framework for analyzing environmental problems and identifying indicators. It has also been important for establishing the wide scope of work necessary for effective environmental assessments: When in its early years of operation pressure was being put on the EEA to confine itself to working on the "state of the environment," the DPSIR framework provided an effective tool to legitimize work on driving forces and responses.

From a policy point of view, there is a clear need for information and indicators on all parts of the DPSIR chain:

Indicators for driving forces describe the social, demographic, and economic developments in societies and the corresponding changes in lifestyles and overall levels of consumption and production patterns. Primary driving forces are population growth and developments in the needs and activities of individuals. These primary driving forces provoke changes in the overall levels of production and consumption. Through these changes in production and consumption, the driving forces exert pressures on the environment. Pressure indicators describe developments in release of substances (emissions), physical and biological agents, the use of resources, and the use of land. The pressures exerted by society are transported and transformed in a variety of natural processes to manifest themselves in changes in environmental conditions. Examples of pressure indicators are CO2 emissions by sector, the use of materials for construction, and the amount of land used for roads. State indicators give a description of the quantity and quality of physical phenomena (e.g., temperature), biological phenomena (e.g., fish stocks), and chemical phenomena (e.g., atmospheric CO2 concentrations) in a certain area. For example, state indicators may describe the forest and wildlife resources present, the concentration of phosphorus and sulfur in lakes, or the level of noise in the neighborhood of airports. Impact indicators are used to describe the relevance of changes in the state of the environment. They are often compared against a threshold or may be measurements of exposure. Examples include frequency of fish kills in a river or the percentage of population receiving drinking water below quality standards.

Response indicators refer to responses by groups and individuals in society and government attempts to prevent, compensate, ameliorate, or adapt to changes in the state of the environment. Some societal responses may be regarded as negative driving forces because they aim to redirect prevailing trends in consumption and production patterns. Other responses aim at raising the efficiency of products and processes by stimulating the development and penetration of clean technologies. Examples of response indicators are the relative amount of cars with catalytic converters and recycling rates of domestic waste. An often-used broad response indicator is that describing environmental expenditures.

To use this framework to look at the dynamics of the system means that we have to understand what happens in the links between D, P, S, I, and R (Figure 8.2). For example, eco-efficiency indicators such as emission coefficients and energy productivity show what happens between driving forces and pressures. This kind of information

Dpsir Model Examples
Figure 8.2. DPSIR links and associated information flows (courtesy of the EEA).

helps us answer such questions as "Are we succeeding in making shifts in the economy, such as decoupling?" and "Are we making technological progress?" The combination in one diagram of the pressure (release of nutrients from agriculture) and the state (development of nitrate concentration in surface waters) tells a story of time delay in natural processes and the possible "time bombs" created in the environment. A focus on links generates the need for new information flows (EEA 1999a).

To help better address the effects of human exposure to environmental factors, the World Health Organization (WHO 2002) has extended DPSIR to the DPSEEA model (Figure 8.3). How people react to environmental exposures depend in part on their individual makeup (e.g., their genetics, health, fitness, and age), where they live, frequency of exposure, and what they have been exposed to before. The effects of exposure therefore are the result of a multicausal chain of risks and probabilities. By adding an extra step in the chain between state and response, the DPSEEA framework attempts to capture the multicausal effects of exposure (see also Chapter 9). Although the effects of human exposures are not readily reduced to a simple linear cause-and-effect framework, the DPSEEA model is helping to guide the development of environmental health indicators to support the development of effective policies to protect human health and the environment and to measure their effectiveness (WHO 2004).

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