Operational Guidance  

Focus on the relationships and processes within an ecosystem.

Knowledge of ecosystem properties and the functional roles of biodiversity are essential when developing management strategies.  Despite existing knowledge gaps, ecosystem management has to be undertaken and adopting the Ecosystem Approach can facilitate practical ecosystem management in the face of uncertainties. 
Better understanding of ecosystem resilience; effects to biodiversity; impacts of habitat fragmentation; drivers of biodiversity loss; and geographical determinants of biodiversity will help improve management planning.  The most productive way of addressing this will be for scientists and local stakeholders to work together, as different forms of knowledge are likely to be complementary. 

Enhance benefit-sharing.

The Ecosystem Approach seeks to maintain and, in some cases, restore the benefits provided by biological diversity at the ecosystem level and ensure these functions benefit stakeholders responsible for their production and management.  This requires, inter alia: capacity building; appropriate valuation of ecosystem goods and services; removal of perverse incentives; and incentivising sustainable management practices.

Use adaptive management practices.

Applying an Ecosystem Approach will entail adopting a long-term learning process that informs the adaptation and development of ecosystem management and monitoring.  Project implementation should be able to adjust to the unexpected and avoid acting on a belief in certainties.  An Ecosystem Approach must account for diverse social and cultural factors that influence natural resource use.  Additionally, flexibility in policy and decision making will be essential to avoid implementing inadequate, or even destructive, actions.

Carry out management actions at the scale appropriate for the issue being addressed, with decentralisation to lowest level, as appropriate.

Because ecosystems operate at a variety of scales, managers should define the appropriate level for decisions and actions.  This may necessitate decentralised management, which will require effective empowerment that provides individual actors with the capacity to undertake appropriate action.  
A decentralised approach will need to be supported by enabling policy and legislative frameworks and appropriate institutions will be required for decision-making and resolving conflict.  Some issues may require higher level involvement, such as trans-boundary cooperation or international collaboration.

Ensure inter-sectoral cooperation.

The Ecosystem Approach will need to be integrated into agriculture, fisheries, forestry and other production systems and sectors that have a bearing on biodiversity.  This calls for increased inter-sectoral communication and cooperation.   This could be facilitated through the establishment of inter-governmental bodies or information sharing networks.

Cross-cutting Issues                                


Capacity-building and participation.

Successful outcomes will rely upon community partnerships, political and institutional willingness to participate and empower, stakeholder engagement, and commitment from donors and sponsors.

Information, research and development.

Biophysical, social and economic information, in addition to resource, will be integral to achieving successful Ecosystem Approach projects.  Knowledge gaps may need to be addressed through research and development activities.  Information will need to be made accessible to all stakeholders in order to facilitate transparent decision making and empowerment. 

Monitoring and review.

Monitoring and review will enable the development of responsive and adaptive management capability, and make it possible to report on performance and outcomes.


Sound governance will be essential for effective application of the Ecosystem Approach.  Good governance embraces proficient environmental, resource and economic policies and requires competent administrative institutions that respond to societal needs.