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ECOLOGY WRITINGS

Ecosystem Approach to Management (EAM)

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EcosystemsAn Ecosystem Approach to Management (EAM) is one that provides a comprehensive framework for living resource decision making. In contrast to individual species or single issue management, EAM considers a wider range of relevant ecological, environmental, and human factors bearing on societal choices regarding resource use.

NOAA defines EAM as a geographically specified, adaptive approach that takes account of ecosystem knowledge and uncertainties, considers multiple external influences, and strives to balance diverse societal objectives. Implementation will need to be incremental and collaborative. NOAA recognizes that transition to and implementation of an ecosystem approach to management needs to be incremental and collaborative.

NOAA's Seven Characteristics of EAM:

  1. Geographically Specified Areas
  2. Adaptive Management
  3. Takes Account of Ecosystem Knowledge & Uncertainty
  4. Strives to Balance Diverse Societal Objectives
  5. Considers Multiple External Influences
  6. Incremental
  7. Collaborative


Geographically Specified Areas

Geographically Specified Areas - Place and issue based, with appropriate boundaries defined by the scope of the problem, area of influence, and the potential area over which solutions may be applied.

EAM is inherently linked to a place. Yet resource management often crosses traditional political boundaries and is influenced by ecosystem drivers, such as oceanographic and climatic conditions, and socioeconomic factors. Due to the dynamic nature of the environment, boundaries may be "fuzzy" or imprecise at times, but they help to provide a framework for the implementation of EAM by focusing us on the place and the issue. To be credible and fully accepted, boundaries should be established so that they are appropriate to the issue being addressed and identified through an open process. Ultimately, boundaries form the basis for scientific investigation and collaborative management strategies.

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Nature's Services: Ecosystems Are More Than Wildlife Habitat

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An ecosystem is a geographically specified system of organisms, including humans, their environment, and the processes that control their dynamics.

When you step outside, whether heading for your car or for a walk around the block, you expect to be able to breathe the air. When planting flowers in the window box or tomatoes in the raised bed in your backyard, you expect those plants to grow, flower, and produce seeds or fruit. When perusing the grocery shelves, you expect to find fresh produce, and affordable fish and meat. When you turn on the tap, you expect to be able to drink the water.

Ecosystem services are the processes through which natural ecosystems, and the plants, animals and microbes that live in those environments, sustain human life. Ecosystem services produce goods, timber, and fibers, medicines and fuels. Ecosystem services even conduct life-support activities, like filtering water and recycling all kinds of wastes. The natural services that for millennia have purified the water and air, supported the growth and reproduction of food plants, controlled pests, and even moderated the weather and its impacts are declining rapidly. Land clearing for agriculture, industry and mining, and development is affecting ecosystems worldwide. As habitats become fragmented, with only pockets left here and there, the services those natural systems provide become less effective.

Tom Lovejoy, Chief Biodiversity Advisor, The World Bank, says other natural services, like waste decomposition and flood control, are often overlooked. Technology may duplicate these services temporarily, but it's doubtful that technological advances will be able to continually compensate for the large-scale loss of natural services. Although it is difficult to put a price tag on a wetland, forest, or river, the "price" for failing to protect or nurture these natural services could be daunting. As we populate the planet, nature's services will become even more essential to humans and worthy of protection from even those who never leave the cities.

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