Implementing the Ecosystem Approach

The ecosystem approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way.  It is built on twelve principles.  It recognises that humans are a part of nature and includes the assumption that effective decision making requires proper empowerment so that stakeholders have the opportunity and capacity to carry out appropriate action supported by enabling policy and law.  Another key principal of the ecosystem approach is that management decisions should be decentralised to the lowest appropriate level to achieve greater efficiency, effectiveness and equity.

Where appropriate we champion and deliver integrated management and the ecosystem approach.  For additional information on the Ecosystem Approach see

The ecosystem approach has the following perspective about people and ecosystems


• Humans are a part of nature not separate to it
• The ecosystem approach includes both cultural and biological diversity
• Effective decision-making requires proper empowerment so that stakeholders have the opportunity to assume responsibility and the capacity to carry out appropriate action supported by enabling policy and law.
• Whilst ecosystems are affected by all levels of activity –local, regional, national and international - management decisions should decentralised to the lowest appropriate level leading to greater efficiency, effectiveness and equity.  The closer management is to the ecosystem, the greater the responsibility, ownership, accountability, participation and use of local knowledge
• Decision making processes should involve all stakeholders and balance local interests with wider public interest. The ecosystem approach should involve all relevant sectors of society and scientific discipline
• All forms of information are valued, including scientific and indigenous and local knowledge, innovations and practices.
• Information should be shared with all stakeholders and actors.  Assumptions should be explicit and checked against available knowledge and views of stakeholders
• Progress is based on the quality, well-being, integrity, and dignity it accords to natural, social and economic systems

The Ecosystem

• Ecosystems should be managed for their intrinsic value and for the tangible and intangible benefits for humans.
• Ecosystems are dynamic - they evolve and change.  Humans need to be responsive to this and not try to freeze ecosystems in a particular state.  Management must be adaptive to be able to respond to the unexpected.
• Conservation of ecosystem structure and function is a priority to maintain ecosystem services
• Ecosystems have limits.  Humans need to work within these limits by understanding the systems carrying capacity and resilience
• The environment includes natural, physical, economic, social and cultural
• Ecosystems are not based on political boundaries but natural geographic units such as catchments or coastal cells.
• The Ecosystem approach recognises the importance of all living species

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