Twelve Ecosystem Approach Principles          


Principle 1:  Recognise objectives as society’s choice.

Economic, cultural and social perception of ecosystems varies amongst different elements of human society.  Human rights, interests and cultural diversity must be taken into account and ecosystems should be equitably managed for their intrinsic, tangible and intangible benefits.

Principle 2: Aim for decentralised management (i.e. subsidiarity).

Management should involve all stakeholders, balance local interests and wider public interests, ensure management is close to the ecosystem, and encourage ownership and accountability. 

Principle 3: Consider the extended impacts, or externalities.

Managers should take into account and analyse effects (actual or potential) that activities have on other ecosystems.

Principle 4: Understand the economic context and aim to reduce market distortion.

Market distortions that adversely affect biodiversity must be avoided.  Incentives should support conservation and sustainable use and costs and benefits ought to be internalised within the focal ecosystem.

Principle 5: Prioritise ecosystem services

Ecosystem functions and structures that supply services must be conserved.

Principle 6: Recognise and respect ecosystem limits.

Management strategies must consider environmental conditions that limit productivity, ecosystem structure, functioning and diversity.

Principle 7: Operate at an appropriate scale, spatially and temporally.

Operational boundaries are defined by users, managers, scientists and local peoples.  Cross-boundary connectivity should be promoted where necessary.  Management options must consider the interaction and integration of genes, species and ecosystems.

Principle 8: Manage for the long-term, considering lagged effects.

Characteristic temporal scales and lag-effects within ecosystems must be taken into consideration.  Preference of favouring immediate benefits over future ones should be avoided.

Principle 9: Accept change as inherent and inevitable.               

Adaptive management must recognise the dynamic and complex nature of ecosystem properties and anticipate change.  Managers need to avoid decisions that limit future options and actions should consider long-term protracted global change.

Principle 10: Balance use and preservation.

It is important to adopt a flexible management approach that takes conservation and use into context and apply a continuum of measures from fully protected to sustainably managed ecosystems.

Principle 11: Bring all knowledge to bear.

Relevant information should be shared with all stakeholders.  All assumptions should be made explicit and checked against available knowledge and stakeholder views.

Principle 12: Involve all relevant stakeholders.

To address management complexities decision making should draw upon necessary expertise and involve relevant stakeholders at all levels.