Ecosystem-based Management

July 8, 2021 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
August 19, 2020 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
September 30, 2018 Scott Fletcher Bowlsby
June 13, 2018 Lucy J Parry, Participedia Team
November 1, 2017 Tyler Carlson
May 16, 2016 Tyler Carlson

Ecosystem-based management (EBM) is a conceptual approach to governance that links human and ecological systems through adaptive management approaches.

Problems and Purpose

Generally, EBM promotes human well-being by managing for the coexistence of "healthy, fully functioning ecosystems and human communities."[1] 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.[2]

Origins and Development

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Participant Recruitment and Selection

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How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making

Three guiding principles of EBM guide its form and application:

1. Maintaining 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.[3] Ecological-based Management recognizes and follows ecological boundaries such as watershed boundaries, and is more effective at maintaining the integrity of an ecosystem than management that follows political (jurisdictional) boundaries. It is also essential that managers move beyond the traditional, hierarchical management structure, and 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.[4] Monitoring involves identifying and using data and indicators of change to characterize ecosystem status and maintenance/improvement of health.

Adaptive Management is a systematic and iterative approach for improving resource management by emphasizing learning from management outcomes.[5] 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.

(Adapted from Parsons, 2015, pg. 23) 

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

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Analysis and Lessons Learned

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: The role that humans play in ecosystem management goals, even in the presence of adequate scientific information, ought to be acknowledged.

See Also

Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation

Collaborative Planning

Collaborative Governance

Integrated Water Resources Management


[1] Coast Information Team (CIT). (2004). The Scientific Basis of Ecosystem-Based Management. Retrieved from, p. 9

[2] 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

[3] CIT (2004). The Scientific Basis of Ecosystem-Based Management, p. 13

[4] Slocombe, D.S. (1998a.) Lessons from experience with ecosystem-based management. Landscape and Urban Planning 40:31-39. Retrieved from

[5] Bormann, B.T., Haynes, R.W., and Martin, J.R. (2007). Adaptive management of forest ecosystems: did some rubber hit the road? BioScience. 57(2): 186-191

External Links 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - What is Ecosystem-Based Management?

Key principles of marine ecosystem-based management