Morning at the Westensee near Kiel
Introduction Ecosystem Approach Principles Fishery Student Pages


The ecosystem approach consists of 12 interlinked and complementary principles:

Principle 1   The objectives of management of land, water and living resources are a matter of societal choices.

Principle 2   Management should be decentralized to the lowest appropriate level.

Principle 3   Ecosystem managers should consider the effects (actual or potential) of their activities on adjacent and other ecosystems.

Principle 4   Recognizing potential gains from management, there is usually a need to understand and manage the ecosystem in an economic context. Any such ecosystem-management programme should:
a) Reduce those market distortions that adversely affect biological diversity;
b) Align incentives to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable use;
c) Internalize costs and benefits in the given ecosystem to the extent feasible.

Principle 5   Conservation of ecosystem structure and functioning, in order to maintain ecosystem services, should be a priority target of the ecosystem approach.

Principle 6   Ecosystem must be managed within the limits of their functioning.

Principle 7   The ecosystem approach should be undertaken at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales.

Principle 8   Recognizing the varying temporal scales and lag-effects that characterize ecosystem processes, objectives for ecosystem management should be set for the long term.

Principle 9   Management must recognize the change is inevitable.

Principle 10   The ecosystem approach should seek the appropriate balance between, and integration of, conservation and use of biological diversity.

Principle 11   The ecosystem approach should consider all forms of relevant information, including scientific and indigenous and local knowledge, innovations and practices.

Principle 12   The ecosystem approach should involve all relevant sectors of society and scientific disciplines.6

The following five points are proposed as operational guidance to apply the above principles:

  1. Focus on the relationships and processes within ecosystem.
  2. Enhance benefit-sharing.
  3. Use adaptive management practices.
  4. Carry out management actions at the scale appropriate for the issue being addressed, with decentralization to lowest level, as appropriate.
  5. Ensure intersectoral cooperation. Further information.7
by Basia Wilga, Gosia Oledzka, and Yvonne Verlinde – 2006
Ecology Centre Kiel – Master’s Programme Environmental Management