Ecosystem-based Management


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Ecosystem-based management (EBM) is a concept that links human and ecological systems through adaptive management approaches. Generally, EBM promotes human well-being by managing for the coexistence of "healthy, fully functioning ecosystems and human communities" (CIT, 2004, pg. 9). EBM is also theorized to be collaborative insofar as it fosters participation and encourages respect for the diverse values and aspirations of communities. Moreover, Parsons (2015) suggests this management paradigm exhibits various "ecological', 'managing uncertainty', and 'social' principles.

Principles of EBM (Adapted from Parsons, 2015, pg. 23)

1. Ecological

Maintain Ecological Integrity: Ecological Integrity is the abundance and diversity of organisms at all levels, and the ecological patterns, processes, and structural attributes responsible for that biological diversity and for ecosystem resilience (CIT, 2004, pg.13).

Ecological Boundaries: Management that recognizes and follows ecological boundaries such as watershed boundaries is more effective at maintaining ecological integrity of an ecosystem than management that follows political (jurisdictional boundaries)

Hierarchical Context: It is essential that managers make connections between patterns and processes at all scales within an ecosystem, including site, neighbourhood, ecosystem, and regional scales and species, population, ecosystem, and watershed levels of analysis.

2. Managing Uncertainty

Data Collection: Data collection involves collection of both social and ecological data to establish the condition of an ecosystem and to implement monitoring (Slocombe, 1998a).

Monitoring: Monitoring involves identifying and using data and indicators of change to characterize ecosystem status and maintenance/improvement of health.

Adaptive Management: Adaptive Management is a systematic and iterative approach for improving resource management by emphasizing learning from management outcomes (Bormann, Haynes, & Martin, 2007). Adaptive management involves testing assumptions and exploring alternatives. Data collection and monitoring can be seen as components of the adaptive management cycle

3. Social

Interagency Cooperation: In conjunction with the principle of managing through ecological boundaries, governments, non-governmental organizations, and citizens will need to work together to implement components of EBM.

Organizational Change: The structures of land management agencies and their operations may need to change, for example by forming interagency committees, or changing professional norms and shifting power dynamics.

Humans Embedded in Nature: Humans need to acknowledge their impact and dependence on ecological patterns and processes.

Values: Acknowledge the role that humans play in ecosystem management goals, even in the presence of adequate scientific information.

Worked Cited:

Coast Information Team (CIT). (2004). The Scientific Basis of Ecosystem-Based Management. Retrieved from

Parsons, K. (2015). Restoring a Paradise of a Place: Exploring the potential for urban Ecosystem-based Management in the Still Creek Watershed, Vancouver, BC. Simon Fraser University


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