“What is being integrated?” is the central question answered in this section. The short answer is: all use and the planning of use of the coastal zone; this refers to that of the individual, to that of local governments and NGO’s and to that of national and even international governments.

Types of integration


Usually, a distinction is made between several types management  integration: 

  • Intergovernmental integration: e.g., local, provincial and national government levels. This is also called “vertical integration”. This integration has the objective to harmonize policy development by national and the final implementation by the local governments.
  • Intersectoral integration: e.g., the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Spatial Planning and the Ministry of Tourism. This is also called “horizontal integration”. A specific type is called integration in space, as the land and sea side of the coastal zone are traditionally governed by different sectors (e.g. tourism vs. fishery), but activities at either side influences the other.
  • Integration of governmental and non-governmental organizations: e.g., local government, local nature organizations and small industries. 
  • Integration of science and management: Clearly, social, natural and engineering sciences have the task to inform coastal and ocean managers. However, their communication is often not optimal.
  • International integration: It may occur that problem areas are cut in two by international borders. As the effects of use of natural resources don’t know these boundaries, international co-ordination is a prerequisite. Though, the problem might have a regional character, it are the national governments who play a leading role in such cases.

Often, horizontal (across sectors) and vertical integration (across levels) are regarded as dominant tasks of ICZM.

The Systems Approach Framework


The SAF is a product of the SPICOSA research project, funded by the European Commission from 2007 – 2011. SPICOSA stands for ‘Science and Policy Integration for COastal System Assessment’. Its research was aimed at developing and testing a toolbox of methods for providing multidisciplinary and trans-disciplinary advice to environmental managers and policy-makers concerning environmental problems in the coastal zone, in order to improve the zone’s ecological sustainability, economic efficiency, and social equity. Sustainability relates to the capability of an ecosystem to go on supplying humans with ‘goods and services’. Efficiency is about making the best use of those resources for the satisfaction of human needs. Equity is about the fair distribution of such satisfaction.

It was in response to the need for such a methodology, that the SPICOSA project developed and tested the Systems Approach Framework or SAF. This has three main parts:
  • the use of General Systems Theory (GST: von Bertalanffy, 1968) and Soft Systems Methodology (SSM, Checkland & Scholes, 1990) to understand and model problems in coastal zones.
  • the simulation of scenarios including problem management options;
  • the engagement of stakeholders at the science-policy interface, as shown in the diagram.

Both GST and SSM consider systems to be networks of components and links with certain formal properties; GST assumes the existence of such systems in the real world, whereas for SSM systems are merely ways to understand the complicated inter-relationships that exist in nature and society. A SAF application includes the stakeholder-aided design of a ‘soft’ Virtual system, or conceptual model, that is simpler than the ‘hard’ real-world coastal zone system under investigation.

As shown in the diagram, a SAF application has five steps:
  • Issue Identification – the problem is diagnosed by stakeholders;
  • System Design – a virtual system is conceived;
  • System Formulation – a simulation model is made;
  • System Appraisal – the model is tested and run for several scenarios;
  • System Output – stakeholders deliberate the scenarios.



  • von Bertalanffy, L. (1968) General Systems Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications, New York: George Braziller.
  • Checkland, P. B. and Scholes, J. (1990) Soft Systems Methodology In Action, Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

Further reading: and




diagram showing the 5 steps of a SAF application