An 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:
- Geographically Specified Areas
- Adaptive Management
- Takes Account of Ecosystem Knowledge & Uncertainty
- Strives to Balance Diverse Societal Objectives
- Considers Multiple External Influences
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.