Strategic environmental assessment practices in European small islands : insights from Azores and Orkney islands

Polido, Alexandra and João, Elsa and Ramos, Tomás B. (2016) Strategic environmental assessment practices in European small islands : insights from Azores and Orkney islands. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 57. pp. 18-30. ISSN 0195-9255 (

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The literature concerning Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) often refers to the importance of context-specific approaches. However, there is a lack of systematised and consistent studies that enhance tailor-made SEA practices and procedures. Small islands are bounded units of study which may help explore SEA theory and practice in special territories. Small islands present particular features and unique values, such as, small size and population, geographic isolation, limited resources and vulnerable ecosystems. Hence, the main goal of this research was to profile SEA practices and procedures in European small islands and provide a background for future research aiming to improve context-specific SEA applications. To achieve this goal, an exploratory case study was developed using Azores (Portugal) and Orkney (Scotland) archipelagos. An analysis of the corresponding mainland was also carried out to contextualise both case studies. The data collection was achieved through a qualitative content analysis of 43 Environmental Reports. The research found that there is not an SEA context-specific approach used within these European small islands, including guidelines, assessment topics, assessment techniques, follow-up and stakeholders engagement. The debate concerning specific approaches to small islands must be re-focused on the enhancement of SEA capacity-building amongst different stakeholders (including decision-makers), on the development and implementation of collaborative approaches, and on the exchange of knowledge and experiences between small islands networks.