Ecosystem Approach

There is no agreed upon definition of the ecosystem approach under the Convention on Biological Diversity although decision II/8 recognized that the ecosystem approach should be the primary framework of action under the Convention. The ecosystem approach was considered at the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties in May 2000 [see Decision V/6].

On the basis of this decision, the ecosystem approach for forest biological diversity could be described as a strategy for the integrated management of forests that promotes their conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. Humans, with their cultural diversity, are an integral component of forest ecosystems. The ecosystem approach requires adaptive management to deal with the complex and dynamic nature of forest ecosystems and the absence of complete knowledge or understanding of their functioning.

According to the ecosystem approach, forest ecosystems should be managed to ensure that their intrinsic values and their tangible benefits are shared in a fair and equitable manner. Forest ecosystem managers should consider the effects – actual or potential – of their activities on forest ecosystems, to avoid unknown or unpredictable effects on on forest ecosystem functioning. Forest ecosystems should also be understood and managed in an economic context. In particular, costs and benefits in forest ecosystems should be internalized to the greatest extent possible. In addition, market distortions that adversely affect forest biological diversity should be reduced and incentives that promote forest biodiversity and sustainable should be aligned.

Finally, the ecosystem approach stresses that forest ecosystems should be managed within the limits of their functioning. Therefore, the conservation of their structure and functioning should be a priority.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme