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The aim of this e-Newsletter is to facilitate sharing of information on the application of the ecosystem approach and promote the use and voluntary update of the Ecosystem Approach Sourcebook.

The ecosystem approach is the basic framework for the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. It encompasses conservation and development concerns, thereby providing an effective framework and processes for achieving sustainable development in a balanced way.

Under the guiding framework of the ecosystem approach, Parties can implement CBD programmes of work on different biomes/sectors, i.e. agriculture, forestry, marine and coastal biodiversity, inland waters, etc, in an integrated and collective manner.

In view of difficulties and different obstacles observed in applying the ecosystem approach, we created the Ecosystem Approach Sourcebook as a tool to help practitioners effectively implement the ecosystem approach by sharing experiences and lessons learned.


Practical examples of the ecosystem approach

The ecosystem approach gives priority to learning by doing. There is often a lack of knowledge on ecosystem functioning and relationships. Management frameworks and practices need to be adaptive and flexible in order to respond to uncertainties and to deal with the complex and dynamic nature of ecosystems, socio-economic conditions and governance.

For some practical examples:

Applying the ecosystem approach to your sector

Various sectors involved in the use and development of natural resources, such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and water resources, have adopted their own approaches towards addressing diverse and complex issues related to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. The ecosystem approach does not preclude single-sector-based management and conservation approaches aiming at sustainable development. It rather integrates all these approaches into a comprehensive and holistic management framework, and attempts to harmonize the different and often conflicting development needs of various production systems and sectors.

  • Biodiversity and the Ecosystem Approach in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (2003) FAO: FAO’s biodiversity programmes apply the ecosystem approach to stimulate community level education and experiential learning by rural people. The same approaches educate national policy makers wishing to fulfil commitments made under environmental treaties while still meeting agricultural production demands.

Marine Ecosystems:
  • Developing and Implementing an Ecosystem Approach to Ocean-related Activities (2008) Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations : The manual focuses on the development and implementation of an ecosystem approach to the management of human activities and their impacts on the marine environment within a national context, while meeting regional and international obligations.
  • Changing realities : ecosystem approaches and sustainable forest management (2004) Sayer, J., Maginnis, S., Laurie, M., Sengupta, S. Rietbergen-McCracken, J. IUCN, Forest Conservation Programme, WWF, Gland, Switzerland: The objective is to show the various interpretations of "ecosystem approaches" that have been applied and the range of these practical applications in the forest sector in a number of countries.
Inland Waters:


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Images courtesy of (from top to bottom): I. Maminta, C. Buddle, IRRI, UNEP/Alphan Presse, C. Kalimantan, Belvaux, E.