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DPSIR is a framework for describing the interactions between society and the environment developed by the European Environmental Agency (EEA). It is based on the PSR (Pressures/State/Response) model proposed by the OECD, and it has been applied to the organisation of systems of indicators and statistics in relation to policy aims (e.g. EEA, EUROSTAT).

Elements: Driving forces – Pressures – State – Impacts – Responses

(a) Driving Forces are the changes in the social, economic and institutional system that directly and indirectly trigger pressures on the environmental state. The EEA defines them as ‘the social, demographic and economic developments in societies and the corresponding changes in lifestyles, overall levels of consumption and production patterns’ (EEA, 2007). A classification of four non-hierarchical but interacting levels of driving forces influencing the structure and relation between the social, economic, political and environmental systems has been proposed (Rodríguez-Labajos et al., 2009). From this approach, the ‘primary driving forces’ are the socio-economic activities directly linked with pressures (e.g. industry, tourism) at the economic management level. ‘Secondary driving forces’ are found at the policy level (e.g. waste policy, laws). In the long term and with a broader spatial sphere of influence, there is the level of ‘tertiary driving forces’, ideology and lifestyle (e.g. media, consumption patterns). Finally, the ‘base driving forces’ include fundamental trends (demographic or cultural), which are only influenced by social decisions in the long term (e.g. climate change, demography).

(b) Pressures are the anthropogenic factors inducing environmental change (Impacts). They are defined by the EEA as ‘developments in release of substances (emissions), physical and biological agents, the use of resources and the use of land by human activities’, although different approaches to its definition can be found in the literature.

(c) State may refer to a natural system alone or to both a natural and socioeconomic system. According to the focus, indicators of State can be very different. State can refer to a wide range of features, from the qualitative and the quantitative characteristics of ecosystems, the quantity and quality of resources, living conditions for humans, exposure to the effects of Pressures on humans, to even larger socio-economic issues. The combination of the current State and the existing Pressures explains Impacts.

(d) Impacts are changes in environmental functions affecting social, economic and environmental dimensions, which are caused by changes in the State of the system. Impacts can include changes in environmental functions such as resource access, water and air quality, soil fertility, health or social cohesion (Maxim et al., 2009). These Impacts trigger Responses.

(e) Responses are the policy actions which are directly or indirectly triggered by the perception of Impacts and which attempt to prevent, eliminate, compensate or reduce their consequences. Responses can come from different levels of the society, such as groups of individuals, governments or non-governmental sectors. These Responses can in turn influence trends in the Driving Forces, Pressures, State and Impacts.


European Environment Agency (EEA) (2007) Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010: proposal for a first set of indicators to monitor progress in Europe, EEA Technical Report no. 11/2007, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.

Maxim L. Spangenberg J. and O’Connor, M. (2009) The DPSIR framework for Biodiversity Assessment. Ecological Economics 69 (1) 12-23.

Rodriguez-Labajos, B; Binimelis, R; Monterroso, I. 2009. Multi-level driving forces of biological invasions. Ecological Economics 69:63-75.

This glossary entry is based on a contribution by Mariana Walter

EJOLT glossary editors: Hali Healy, Sylvia Lorek and Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos

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