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Monday, October 20, 2008

Conservation, Biodiversity , Living Landscapes and the Ecosystem Approach.

Somerset Wildlife Trust and in deed all county wildlife trusts are pushing hard for funding to establish Living Landscape areas as the best and most effective way of protecting wildlife for the long term.

The SWT AGM heard a great deal about such efforts in Somerset and I have attended meetings on the subject to find out more about this significant development in conservation thinking. An important and quite technical aspect which underlies the way conservation is linked to biodiversity and ecosystems management is summarised in the notes included below.

This is my own summary of a presentation given by Diana Pound who runs a consultancy called:
dialogue matters

The Ecosystem Approach
What is it all about?
Discussions with others about the Ecosystem Approach usually include whether or not it matters that so many different terms are being used – sometimes to mean the same thing and sometimes the same phrase is used to mean different things. The phrases being used include: Ecosystem Approach, ecosystems approach (lower case sometimes used deliberately to denote something different), ecosystem-based approach, ecosystem function approach, ecosystem services approach, and ecosystem thinking.

If this change in language means we are all starting to think more holistically then that can only be a good thing. If on the other hand, our casual use of these terms is confusing each other, watering down what they mean, resulting in us reinventing wheels, and missing out on realising that (particularly for the Ecosystem Approach) there are well-developed principles and guidance that could, when implemented, deliver good practice in management and genuine sustainability, then there is a problem.

The Ecosystem Approach
The Ecosystem Approach has been adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as the main way of delivering genuine sustainability and the primary framework for action. It is defined as ’a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way’ (CBD).

To guide implementation the CBD has agreed 12 Ecosystem Approach principles and 5 points of Operational Guidance and provided implementation guides.

The 12 ecosystem approach principles are:

1. The objectives of management of land, water and living resources are a matter of societal choice.
2. Management should be decentralised to the lowest appropriate level.
3. Ecosystem managers should consider the effects (actual or potential) of their activities on adjacent and other ecosystems.
4. Need to understand and manage the ecosystem in an economic context.
5. Conservation of ecosystem structure and function to provide ecosystem services should be a priority.
6. Ecosystem must be managed within the limits of their functioning.
7. The approach should be taken at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales.
8. Process and objectives for ecosystem management should be set for the long term.
9. Management must recognise that change is inevitable.
10. Seek the appropriate balance between integration, conservation and use of biodiversity.
11. Decision-making should consider all forms of relevant information (scientific, indigenous and local).
12. Involve all relevant sectors of society and scientific disciplines.

The 5 points of operational guidance are:

1. Focus on the relationship and processes within the ecosystem.
2. Enhance benefit sharing.
3. Use adaptive management practices.
4. Carry out management actions at the scale appropriate to the issue, with decentralisation to the lowest level appropriate.
5. Ensure intersectoral co-operation.

The 12 principles plus explanation can be seen at:;

The 5 points of operational guidance at:

Implementation Guides
Advanced: .

The ecosystem services approach The ecosystem services approach has a focus on understanding and quantifying the services the natural environment provides for us, and then managing the environment so that the provision of these services is sustained over the long term.

The approach is defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment as a way of “identifying, valuing and enhancing the goods and services that the ecosystem provides for us by conserving ecosystem structure and function in a way that ensures these services can be provided over the long term”.

Services include:
• Supporting services: The services that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services including soil formation, photosynthesis, primary production, nutrient cycling and water cycling.
• Provisioning services: The products obtained from ecosystems, including food, fibre, fuel, genetic resources, biochemicals, natural medicines, pharmaceuticals, ornamental resources and fresh water;
• Regulating services: The benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes, including air quality regulation, climate regulation, water regulation, erosion regulation, water purification, disease regulation, pest regulation, pollination, natural hazard regulation;
• Cultural services: The non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experiences – thereby taking account of landscape values;
In effect, this is a focus on Principle 5 of the 12 Ecosystem Approach principles.

Millennium Assessment
Ecosystem Services

The following terms are also used – working definitions are provided

ecosystem function:
Includes the following:
The flows of energy, nutrients, minerals, and water within a system.
The spatial and temporal processes which include connectivity and succession.
The sensitivity and resilience of the system.
The predator prey relationships, age structure of species, and whether or not all trophic levels are present and functional.
The effect of human interventions on ecosystem function arising from extracting and harvesting resources or disposing of waste.