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What is the DAPSI(W)R(M) problem structuring method?

It might look like a mouthful, but DAPSI(W)R(M) is an essential tool underpinning our research — and we have a PDF infographic to help explain it!


Infographic by Gemma Smith of IECS, Ltd about the DAPSI(W)R(M) Framework
Infographic by Gemma Smith of IECS, Ltd about the DAPSI(W)R(M) Framework

The DAPSI(W)R(M) method (pronounced dap-see-worm) is a tool we use to get a full picture of complex issues that affect both people and nature (the social and ecological elements within a system). This framework provides a structured approach for ecosystem-based management by categorising key features of Drivers, Activities, Pressures, State changes, Impacts (on human Welfare), and Response (using management Measures). This tool fits within the Integrated Systems Analysis, or ISA for short. The ISA approach is all about understanding how different parts of a problem are connected and influence each other.

The DAPSI(W)R(M) framework is the underpinning problem-structuring method in the ISA; think of it similar to a storyline that starts with the root causes—such as what drives us to travel or fish, through to the activities and impacts this has on the environment, and ends with solutions for looking after both our communities and the environment. This step-by-step method helps us better understand our system and identify where we can make the most difference in our Response management Measures. This resource shows how the DAPSI(W)R(M) tool is used in the ISA approach, helping managers make well-rounded decisions that benefit both people and our oceans. This tool system breaks down the relationship into different parts:

  • Drivers: These are the basic needs and wants society has from the ocean, such as food and well-being.

  • Activities: To meet these needs, we engage in various Activities such as fishing or producing energy from the sea.

  • Pressures: These Activities can harm marine life. For example, leaving litter at the beach may put Pressure on the species which inhabit the area.

  • State changes: The Pressures can lead to changes in the ocean, such as a decrease in the number of sea creatures because they eat the litter.

  • Impacts (on human Welfare): These State changes can affect humans too. If there are fewer sea creatures, people may not enjoy the beach as much as they once did and stop visiting.

  • Responses (Measures): To solve these problems, we can take certain steps, such as cleaning up the beaches or regulating fishing. Ultimately, the goal is to make sure people and the ocean coexist in a healthy way and that we manage this balance effectively.

By using this framework, we aim to make sure the ocean remains a healthy environment that supports both a thriving economy and the well-being of communities in efforts to balance different needs and check the health of the system to adapt as needed.


Download the infographic by Gemma Smith (IECS, Ltd) as a PDF in the button below.



For more information on the DAPSI(W)R(M) framework, take a look at the following paper:

  • Elliott, M., Burdon, D., Atkins, J. P., Borja, A., Cormier, R., de Jonge, V. N. & Turner, R. K. (2017) "And DPSIR begat DAPSI(W)R(M)!" - A unifying framework for marine environmental management. Mar Pollut Bull, 118(1-2), 27-, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.03.049

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