Ecosystem-Based Management

  Water connects us all...


An Ecosystem-Based Management approach is being used to develop a watershed management plan for the Susquehanna and Chemung Basins of New York ("Susquehanna-Chemung Action Plan").  This approach to planning integrates natural, social, and economic factors to develp a plan for achieving a sustainable future. 


What is Ecosystem-Based Management?
(The following description is taken from "Our Waters, Our Communities, Our Future:  Taking Bold Action Now To Achieve Long-term Sustainability of New York's Ocean and Great Lakes," April 2009, prepared by the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Conservation Council.) 

Achieving sustainability in our economies, communities, and natural environment requires rethinking traditional, fragmented approaches to managing complex and interrelated problems.  Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) is an emerging, integrated approach that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans, to achieve improved environmental conditions and sustained ecosystem services that support human needs and social goals.

Ecosystem-Based Management develops and uses scientific understandings of how marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems function across a wide continuum of scale and scope.   Scientific information should inform management decisions and guide adaptive measures as new information becomes available.

Ecosystem-Based Management considers the interdependent and cumulative impacts of different sectors, including human, social, and economic activities.  Some of the principles that generally guide EBM are:

  • EBM emphasizes the protection of ecosystem structure, function, and key processes based on science;
  • EBM is place-based in focusing on a specific ecosystem and the range of activities affecting it;
  • EBM acknowledges the interconnectedness among systems, recognizing the importance of interactions among many target species or key services and other non-target species;
  • EBM integrates ecological, social, economic, and institutional perspectives, recognizing their strong interdependencies and mutual influences;
  • EBM is most effective when working in collaboration, such as agencies working together with citizens, landowners, businessses, local governments, interested organizations, and others to face problems, identify opportunities, make feasible improvements, and find common solutions.  The processes are often as unique as the situation, but the common theme is the active participation of partners to achieve measurable objectives in support of ecosystem management goals.
  • EBM should incorporate adaptive management using scientifically-based evaluation, testing of alternate management approaches, and readjustment as new information becomes available from monitoring programs.

Who else is doing Ecosystem-Based Management?

In 2006, the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Act established ecosystem-based management as the framework to better manage human activities that affect the state's coastal ecosystems.  An agenda for implementing these principles was laid out in the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Report, completed in April 2009.  Two areas were chosen to demonstrate how ecosystem-based management principles can be applied locally:  Great South Bay on Long Island (newsletters available from the Oceans and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council) and the Sandy Creeks Watersheds on the east shore of Lake Ontario. 

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation utilized an ecosystem-based management approach to develop a 2010 Action Agenda for the Department's Mohawk River Basin Program.  This is a concise plan that summarizes the challenges and presents targeted actions for each of five priority goals.  Recommended actions are divided into "2015 targets" and "longer range targets."

A similar planning process was used to develop the Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda, which sets goals for the Hudson River Estuary Program and provides a blueprint for program implementation.  A guiding principle for this Action Agenda is sustainability, with sustainable development defined as development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (United Nations Brundtland Commission, 1987).


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