Ecosystem Approach

Download the Advanced Guide

The Ecosystem Approach Advanced User Guide

1. Introduction

In addition to the individual tasks identified above there are a number of cross-cutting issues that need to be considered when applying the ecosystem approach.

Capacity-building and participation
To apply the ecosystem approach successfully it is crucial to investigate what resources and sponsorship are required to undertake the exercise. This can be in the form of capacity-building and fostering alliances.

Alliance can be in terms of community partnerships, stakeholder engagement, political and institutional willingness to participate and empower, and the commitment of international donors or sponsors. An important consideration is the length of time the alliance is required; that is, it may be required in the initiation phase, assessment phase, the phase associated with implementation of outcomes, or all three and beyond. Examples exist where an ecosystem approach has been compromised from a loss of allegiance from one or more of the community, other stakeholders, the political establishment and institutions, or sponsors and donors.

Capacity-building is also important for the success of any programme which is using the ecosystem approach to address the problems at hand. Adequate financial support and appropriate infrastructure support are important requirements for success. So too is access to suitable expertise and the sharing of knowledge and experience. Before embarking on a programme it is useful to build on lessons learnt from other projects which have used tools and methods consistent with the ecosystem approach principles. Technologies, including decision support tools and inventory systems, which have been developed elsewhere may be transferable or can be adapted.

Information, research and development
The collection of resource, biophysical, social, and economic information is important to the successful completion of a project using ecosystem approach. Research and development might be required to target gaps in knowledge that hinder addressing the exercise at hand. Knowledge derived from research and information from other sources has to be integrated and packaged into information products (including decision-support systems) that allow and provide for interpretation, and which facilitate their use in applying an ecosystem approach. Information products are necessary for communicating with stakeholders, planners, managers and decision makers. Consideration should be given to enhancing the access of stakeholders to information because the more transparent the decision-making is, based on information at hand, the better the ownership of the resultant decisions between partners, stakeholders and sponsors. Priorities for research and development are likely to be clearer once the ecosystem approach begins to be applied and implementing actions are put in place.

Monitoring and review
Monitoring and review are crucial components of any programme using the ecosystem approach as a framework for implementation. They allow a responsive and adaptive management capability to be developed. Monitoring and review are also useful in reporting performance and assessing outcomes, and their links to the use of the approach. Indicators of performance should be defined, developed and implemented. Appropriate monitoring and auditing systems need to be implemented to support reporting on indicators of performance. Periodic reviews of these indicators need to be undertaken to assess performance and allow adaptive management where necessary. Strategies, practices and processes may need to be modified depending upon the findings from monitoring and auditing.

Good governance is essential for successful application of the ecosystem approach to a problem. Good governance includes sound environmental, resource and economic policies and administrative institutions that are responsive to the needs of the people. Robust and sound resource management systems and practices are required to support these policies and institutions. Decision-making should account for societal choices, be transparent and accountable and involve society. Accountability for making decisions has to be placed at the appropriate level that reflects that community of interest. For example strategic land-use planning and management might be taken by central government, operational decisions taken by local government or management agency, whereas decisions associated with the sharing of benefits could be taken by a community organisation.

Good governance at all levels is fundamental for achieving sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity. It is important to ensure intersectoral cooperation. There is a need to integrate the ecosystem approach into agriculture, fisheries, forestry and other production systems that have an effect on biodiversity. Management of natural resources, according to the ecosystem approach, calls for increased intersectoral communication and cooperation at a range of levels (government ministries, management agencies).