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The Ecosystem Approach Advanced User Guide

1. Introduction

This guide provides information how to apply the ecosystem approach to a project or issue. It does not set out exactly how to deliver the three objectives of the Convention through the ecosystem approach. Instead, it explains the type of actions that need to be taken and why these are important for meeting all the principles of the ecosystem approach.

Much can be learnt from the experiences of others when using the ecosystem approach as a basis for projects and programmes. The searchable component of the ecosystem approach sourcebook can be used in addition to this guide to find information on case studies and tools which have been used to meet the principles of the ecosystem approach.

The ecosystem approach is a tool; it provides a framework that can be used to implement the objectives of the CBD, including the work on, inter alia, protected areas and ecological networks. There is no single correct way to apply the ecosystem approach to management of land, water, and living resources. The principles that underlie the ecosystem approach should be translated flexibly to address management issues in different social, economic and environmental contexts. Already, there are sectors and governments that have developed guidelines that are partially consistent, complementary or even equivalent to the ecosystem approach (e.g. the Code for Responsible Fisheries, the Sustainable Forest Management approach, adaptive forest management). These and the case studies in the searchable component of the sourcebook provide examples of how the ecosystem approach can be used in practice.

There are a number of options for implementing the ecosystem approach. One is the incorporation of its principles into the design and implementation of national and regional biodiversity strategies and action plans. Others include incorporation of the ecosystem approach principles into policy instruments, planning processes, and sectoral plans (e.g., in forest, fisheries, agriculture). At a more local level the principles of the ecosystem approach can be used to guide the development and implementation of individual projects and plans.

This guide explains how the ecosystem approach could be used to address issues that affect the management of land, water and living resources. The following sections cover, steps to using the ecosystem approach (Section 2), Applying the ecosystem approach (Section 3), creating a management plan (Section 4) and assessing a project against the ecosystem approach (Section 5).

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme