Landim Neto, et al.
Application of the DPSIR model for the diagnosis of an estuary of the
Brazilian Northeast: a tool for local and regional management
Francisco Otávio Landim Neto, Adryane Gorayeb, Edson Vicente da Silva, Antonio Jeovah de Andrade
Meireles, Narcélio de Sá Pereira Filho
Dept. of Geography
Federal University of Ceará,
Fortaleza, 60833-500, Brazil
Landim Neto, F.O., Gorayeb, A, Silva, E.V, Pereira Filho, N.S, 2013 . Application of the DPSIR model to an estuary
of the Brazilian Northeast: a tool for local and regional management, Proceedings 12th International Coastal
Symposium (Plymouth, England), Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 65, pp. 986-990, ISSN 0749-0208.
The occupation and use of coastal environments are characterized by a general lack of planning, which provokes
increasing pressures and the progressive intensification of problems such as deforestation, the pollution of water
resources, inadequate disposal of solid waste, and the illegal occupation of public areas. The present study proposes a
diagnosis of the environmental quality of the Guaribas estuary on the western coast of Ceará, in northeastern Brazil,
based on the application of the DPSIR model (Driving Forces, Pressures, State, Impact, Responses). In the field,
geographic coordinates were collected (GPS navigator), providing the data for the production of maps in an SIG
environment, based on the interpretation of high spatial resolution satellite images. Based on the observed constraining
factors, it was possible to predict eventual impacts, such as a reduction in fishery productivity, loss of habitats and
biodiversity, and numerous problems in the sphere of public health. The appropriation of space was clearly related to
the installation of the Pecém shipping terminal and industrial complex, as well as hotels financed by foreign
investments attracted by the economic development policies of the state, which conflicts with the interests of the
traditional local communities and creates a marked imbalance in the use of coastal space. The results of the present
study indicate that the DPSIR model represents an excellent analytical tool for the evaluation of the local scenario,
given the integrated analysis of socio-environmental problems, in addition to the identification of potential strategies
that may be adapted to the perspective of public authorities, the economic sector, and society in general. Overall, there
is clearly an urgent need for the regulation of the use of the coastal environments of western Ceará, Brazil.
ADDITIONAL INDEX WORDS: Models of environmental analysis, Brazilian estuaries, geoprocessing.
The growing demand for natural resources reinforces the need
for the development new approaches and the establishment of a
more rational model of exploitation based on principles of
environmental and social sustainability. The urgency of this
initiative is reinforced by the characteristics of the modern
lifestyle, and the increasingly sophisticated technological
advances that contribute to the productivity of industrial and
agricultural activities.
As they form an interface between marine, terrestrial, and
atmospheric environments, in which highly dynamic natural
processes predominate, estuaries are extremely vulnerable to
anthropogenic impacts. These transitional systems are
characterized by a complex mixture of habitats in constant
transformation, with generally shallow waters, which are
influenced by precipitation rates, evaporation, and tidal forces
(Cameron et al., 1963; Miranda et al., 2002; Marins, 2007).
Estuaries play an important ecological role in coastal systems,
transferring nutrients and organic material into adjacent coastal
waters, and providing habitats for important fishery stocks, as well
as generating goods and services for local communities (Clark,
1996). The Brazilian Northeast coast has a large number of
DOI: 10.2112/SI65-167.1 received 07 December 2012; accepted 06
March 2013.
© Coastal Education & Research Foundation 2013
estuaries, with many well-structured areas of mangrove forest,
most of which suffer ongoing anthropogenic impacts (Alves et al.,
In recent years, the occupation of estuarine habitats and the
exploitation of the natural resources available in these systems
have increased progressively, threatening the structure and
functional properties of these environments (Meireles and Silva,
2002). In this context, the present study is based on a diagnosis of
the environmental quality of the Guaribas estuary on the western
coast of the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceará. This estuary is
exploited intensively by the local population and has suffered an
unregulated process of urbanization, which intensified in the
1990s, when construction of the Pecém shipping complex started
(Vasconcelos, 1997). This complex now includes a terminal for
the storing and shipping of raw materials and foundry products, as
well as petroleum and its derivatives, and bulk liquids. The
installation of this complex had a number of negative impacts on
the adjacent estuary, including the bulldozing of its margins for
construction works, and the discharge of sewage and solid waste
into the main channel and creeks.
The Guaribas estuary (Figure 1) is located in the Pecém district of
the municipality of São Gonçalo do Amarante. The locality was
originally a fishing village, the population of which has increased
Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 65, 2013
Application of the DPSIR model for the diagnosis of an estuary of the Brazilian Northeast:
Figure 1. Location of the Guaribas Estuary in Ceará, Brazil.
progressively since the installation of the shipping terminal.
According to the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics
(IBGE), the district had a total of 9,156 residents in 2010.
The Guaribas River is approximately 6.5 km long, from its
origin in the Sítio Batateiras Lake in Pau Branco to its mouth on
the Atlantic coast. The estuary is located within two conservation
units – (1) the Pecém Environmental Protection Area, created by
state decree no. 24,957, of June 5th, 1998, with an area of
122.7999 hectares, and (2) the Pecém Ecological Station, created
by state decree no. 30,895, on April 20th, 2012, with an area of
973.0853 hectares.
The Guaribas estuary is dominated by mangrove forest, which
prevents erosion and stabilizes the coastline (Ohrel; Register,
2006). The forest is dominated by red mangrove (Rhizophora
mangle), black mangrove (Avicennia schaueriana and Avicennia
germinans), white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa), and
button mangrove (Conocarpus erectus). Given the constant supply
of nutrients, the mangrove ecosystem supports a considerable
diversity of animal species that use this environment to feed,
reproduce, and seek refuge (Cardoso, 1997, Caspers, 1967,
Fairbridge, 1980, Silva, 1987). This forest has relatively saline and
acidic soil, due to the accumulation of large quantities of organic
matter, and is not edaphically adequate for agriculture (Monteiro,
The creation of new procedures for environmental studies will
be essential for the development of a more adequate approach to
the exploitation of natural resources, while validating the
understanding of the interactions and inter-relationships that exist
within an environmental system, reinforcing the integration of its
Christofoletti, 1979; Gerasimov, 1980;
Grigoriev, 1968;
Sotchava, 1974; Rodriguez et al.,2007; Souza et al., 2009; Tricart,
1979; Ross, 2006).
In this context, the DPSIR (Driving Forces, Pressures, State,
Impact, Responses) model provides an important approach to the
quantification of anthropogenic impacts, while establishing
diagnoses, prognoses, and mechanisms for effective
environmental planning (EEA, 1999).
In the early 1990s, the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development introduced the PSR (Pressure–State–Response)
model, which established the relationships between the pressures
created by modern society on the environment, the resulting state
or condition of the environment, and the response society should
adopt in order to mitigate or prevent the negative impacts resulting
from these processes (Casado, 2007). However, this model did not
include sustainability as an objective, and does not provide
information on ecological functions or ecosystem structure
(Ribeiro, 2004).
Jiliberto (2011) thus recommended the substitution of the
concept of pressure with that of driving force, given that the word
pressure has negative connotations, whereas driving force is
essentially neutral. It was also necessary to insert an index of
impact between the state and response components, in order to
assess modifications to the state, and foment the measures
necessary for the management of the impacts.
In this context, the European Environment Agency proposed a
model of environmental analysis which aimed to describe
environmental problems arising from the relationship between
society and nature (Cabanillas, 2007). This model, denominated
DPSIR, considers that human activities (D = “Driving forces”), in
particular industries and transportation, produce pressures (P =
“Pressures”) on the environment, such as pollution, which lead to
its degradation (S = “State of the environment”) and leads to
public health problems. The impact (I = “Impact”) arises between
this state and the response of society (R = “Responses”),
determined by the development of public policies, such as
regulations, laws, and the production of information, which can be
directed at any given component of the system (Kraemer, 2006).
The methodological procedures were divided into two distinct
phases. The first phase was a literature search, primary data
processing, and analysis of QuickBird satellite imagery, 2006,
with a spatial resolution of 50 cm. In the second phase,
observations of the physical features of the estuary and adjacent
habitats were conducted in order to identify the principal
environmental units and the modifications to these units caused by
different processes of occupation and use, based on a photographic
record and geographic coordinates. The final stage was the
production of the cartographic material in a Geographic
Information System (GIS).
The DPSIR model provided an integrated approach to the
analysis of the factors that cause environmental problems. In this
context, it is important to note that the occupation and
transformation of the geographic space of the coast of Pecém has
been completely unregulated since it began. These problems have
been exacerbated by property speculation, the construction of new
access roads, the development of mass tourism, and more recently,
the installation of the Pecém shipping terminal, which was
inaugurated in 2002, and the subsequent development of the
adjacent industrial complex. The concomitant growth in the
district’s urban center has caused serious socio-environmental
impacts, which have provoked the intense anthropization of the
natural landscape of the study area.
The official government position is that the installation of the
industrial complex of the Pecém shipping terminal will provide
the state of Ceará with industrial development, based on the more
efficient shipping of raw materials and products, as well as
supporting the economic development and industrial growth in the
state. However, little attention has been paid to the improvement
of the environment or the living conditions of the local
The occupation and exploitation of the Guaribas estuary is
completely unplanned, and the growth of the local population has
led to the colonization of a number of different sectors, such as the
beach, dune fields, and estuarine plain. The unregulated
occupation of the area has led to the intensification of pressures,
such as the increase in the number of sources of pollution and
property speculation, as well as a decline in traditional housing,
due to the number of buildings constructed directly or indirectly in
relation to the presence of the shipping terminal.
Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 65, 2013
Landim Neto, et al.
Apart from shipping, the principal local economic activities are
related to agriculture, the extraction of plant resources, and
fishing. Commercial establishments include groceries, small
markets, bars, bakeries, wholesale drinks suppliers, and
construction supply stores. There are also metalworking facilities
and mechanics’ workshops.
The principal crops grown in the plantations adjacent to the
Guaribas estuary are beans, maize, and manioc. There are also
orchards of coconut, papaya, mango, cashew, and banana, as well
as market gardens. The extraction of plant resources involves
primarily the harvesting of carnaúba (Copernicia prunifera) wax
and the logging of local Caatinga forests for the production of
firewood and charcoal.
Local fisheries are still essentially artisanal, which use small
boats, often in poor condition. The principal species fished are
chub mackerel (Scomber japonicus), Serra Spanish mackerel
(Scomberomorus brasiliensis), Atlantic moonfish (Selene
Porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus), Atlantic tarpon (Megalops
atlanticus), cobia (Rachycentron canadum), crevalle jack (Caranx
hippos), mutton snapper (Lutjanus analis), and dorado (Salminus
The Guaribas estuary itself is used for a number of activities,
such as artisanal fishing, extraction of plant and mineral resources,
as well as for the dumping of solid waste and the discharge of
domestic and industrial effluents. The intense and unregulated use
of this environment and the adjacent areas, as well as the
development of a range of economic activities, have provoked a
series of impacts, included deforestation, the degradation of
hydrological resources, waste disposal, squatting on public land
and unprecedented levels of property speculation (Figure 2).
Increasing erosion and ineffective coastal management has led to
the progressive degradation of both physical and social
environments. Mitigation of these problems is the responsibility of
the public authorities, and can only be achieved through the
implementation of effective social and environmental policies,
including the relocation of squatters, construction of a public
sanitation system, and the development of environment education.
Given the problems observed in the present study, it is
important to emphasize that current Brazilian environmental
legislation, based on federal law number 4771 (the forest code) of
September 15th, 1965, and provisional decree 2166-67 of August
24th, 2001, determines the establishment of areas of permanent
preservation (APPs). This legislation provides legal support for
the conservation and preservation of existing natural resources,
with the objective of sustaining local biological and cultural
diversity, upholding the equilibrium of the environment, and
mitigating further degradation.
However, the reality of the study area is quite distinct from this
theoretical scenario. The unregulated occupation of environments,
such as the dune fields adjacent to the Guaribas estuary, by hotels,
vacation homes, and the shipping terminal itself, disrespect the
legislation completely. In this specific case, the substrate is not
only unstable, but it is also characterized by intense eolic
processes, which render it totally unsuitable for urban
development. The driving forces, pressures, state, impacts, and
responses observed in the Guaribas estuary and adjacent areas are
presented in Table 1.
The anthropogenic pressures affecting the Guaribas estuary
indicate that the area is extremely vulnerable to social tensions, as
demonstrated previously by Albuquerque (2005), Vasconcelos,
Albuquerque, Pinheiro (1999), and Vasconcelos (1997). Some of
Figure 2. Socio-environmental impacts observed in the Guaribas estuary,
Ceará, Brazil.
the observed impacts also have serious implications for local
ecosystems, such as the discharge of different types of effluent
and the inadequate disposal of solid waste, which not only alter
the characteristics of the local landscape, but also provoke
unpleasant odors, and may introduce toxic substances into the
aquatic environment, directly endangering both the ecosystem and
public health (Braga et al., 2000). These processes combine to
reduce environmental quality, affecting marine and estuarine
biodiversity and, ultimately, fishery stocks (Flindt et al., 1999,
Valiela et al.,2002). This has profound economic and social
consequences, in particular for the traditional local populations, as
shown in estuarine environments in other regions of Brazil, and
throughout the world (Guimarães et al., 2011; Gorayeb et al.,
2011; Silva et al., 2011; Souza et al., 2009; Reis-Neto et al., 2011;
Sodré, 2011; Marcelino, 2000).
A number of studies of estuarine systems (Mastaller, 1987;
Cabanillas, 2007; Caeiro et al.,2003; Painho et al.,1996) have
shown that the DPSIR model provides an adequate
methodological approach for the diagnosis and evaluation of
environmental problems, in particular the role of society as a
prime mover in all phases of the analytical process. It is important
to note, however, that the processes at work in any socioenvironmental system do not interact in a linear fashion in time or
species, and that reality is far more complex than the universe
established in any theoretical model.
Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 65, 2013
Application of the DPSIR model for the diagnosis of an estuary of the Brazilian Northeast:
Table 1: Driving forces, pressures, state, impacts, and responses observed in the Guaribas estuary and adjacent areas.
Driving Force (D)
Elements PSIR
Shipping terminal
(P) Pressures: Port installations in dune fields; property speculation; unregulated occupation of
areas of permanent protection.
(S) State: Coastal plain completely impacted – beach occupied by shipping installations,
buildings constructed in the dune fields, interdunal lake used as a public water supply, and
estuary subjected to a range of impacts.
(I) Impact: Removal of the original vegetation; alteration of the energetic dynamics of the
coastal zone; modification of the lifestyle of the local community; increased cost of living;
migration of local residents; urban expansion of low income groups into mangroves, the beach
(adjacent to the mouth of the estuary), and dune fields.
(R) Responses: Establishment of state conservation units – Pecém Environmental Protection
Photo: Ceará, 2012
Area and Pecém Ecological Station.
Socio-economic activities in the
(P) Pressures: Increase in the number of commercial establishments, use of pesticides in
agriculture, the extraction of plant and mineral resources, and artisanal fishing.
(S) State: Intensification of commercial activities and the provision of services; occupation of the
coastal plain (behind the dune fields) for plantations; availability of facilities such as restaurants,
hotels, supermarkets, and other establishments funded by foreign capital.
(I) Impacts: Modification of the local culture; reduction of estuarine fisheries (artisanal fishing
and clam digging); contamination of the soil and water sources.
(R) Responses: No responses detected on the part of either the local community or public
Local community
(P) Pressures: Greatly increased population growth following the installation of the Pecém
shipping terminal; increase in urban growth through the construction of holiday homes (foreign
capital) and rudimentary buildings (by local residents).
(S) State: Increase in social violence, alcoholism, prostitution, and the use of illicit drugs
(cannabis, crack, and cocaine); ineffective public sanitation system in the community.
(I) Impacts: Inadequate disposal of effluents and domestic sewage; bulldozing of the mangroves
for the construction of housing and other buildings.
(R) Responses: Establishment of the master plan for the municipality of São Gonçalo do
Amarante, based on municipal Law number 708 of September 24th, 2001, which is designed to
regulate the occupation of the soil, and the installation and functioning of industrial, commercial,
residential, and service activities.
The natural environments of the Guaribas estuary are being
progressively degraded in a totally unregulated manner,
underpinned by the lack of adequate planning on the part of the
Brazilian federal government or the effective supervision of land
uses. This has led to the alteration of different components of the
local landscape and the natural dynamics of the predominant
natural processes, and ultimately, affects the availability of natural
The loss of environmental quality can be interpreted as the
reduction in the resources and services offered by the ecosystem.
The appropriation of space occurs primarily as a function of the
installation of the shipping terminal and hotels financed by foreign
capital, attracted by the economic development strategies
implemented by the state and municipal authorities which, by
confronting the values of the traditional communities, reinforce
the unequal distribution of wealth and access to the coastal
territory. The unregulated and unplanned occupation of this space
results in extremely negative impacts resulting from the
destruction of the dunes for building, installation of kiosks on the
beachfront, the discharge of effluents into bodies of water, and the
illegal occupation of the estuarine plain of the Guaribas River.
Finally, it is possible to conclude that Brazilian environmental
legislation is not being applied adequately, given that the
degradation of natural resources continues unchecked. This is a
clear need for the urgent regulation of the exploitation of natural
resources on the west coast of the Brazilian state of Ceará.
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Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 65, 2013

Application of the DPSIR model for the diagnosis of an estuary of the