Ecosystem Approach to Management

shutterstock 87118006The concept of the Ecosystem Approach to management (EA) has been around for at least 30 years and has been extensively discussed, elaborated and developed. This approach is known by a number of different names; ecosystem-based management (EBM), ecosystem approach to management (EAM), or simply the ecosystem approach, EA, which is the term used here.

The EA was adopted as an overarching principle and approach by Arctic Council Ministers in 2004 as part of the Arctic Marine Strategic Plan (AMSP) and described in the following manner:

"An integrated ecosystem-based management approach requires that development activities be coordinated in a way that minimizes their impact on the environment and integrates thinking across environmental, socioeconomic, political and sectoral realms. The management of resource activities needs to be focused on realistic, practical steps that are directed toward reducing environmental damage, protecting biodiversity and promoting the health and prosperity of local communities. For such an approach to be successful, the relevant ecosystems need to be better understood, monitored and reported on. Actions must be based on clear objectives and a sound management structure, employing best available knowledge and practices, integrated decision-making and, where appropriate, a coordinated, regional approach."

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 11.58.09EA Brochure
PAME has produced a brochure on EA (2016). It overviews the EA concept, LME's and PAME's work on EA.

Click here to download the Brochure.

The brochure is an important tool for PAME to communicate its EA work to a wide range of audicences.

BePOMArPAME continues to advance the work towards implementation of the EA by taking into account the previous work on the Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) and other relevant Arctic Council work such as the summary of Observed Best Practices for Ecosystem-based Ocean Management (as a part of the 2009 Best Practices in Ecosystem Based Oceans Management in the Arctic (BePOMAR)) where best practices from planning and implementation of the EA in national ocean management policies were reviewed.

BePOMAR identified several core elements that are essential when applying the EA and drew 6 general conclusions from the review of practices.

Download the BePOMAR report

EA Implementation
PAME is now past the stage where we discuss what it is and what it means and we are dealing with the next stage: how do we implement it in practice, in the real world.

Six elements of the Ecosystem Approach (PAME EA-EG)

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 11.28.00The following 6 elements have been identified as the main components of an EA framework. These elements can be seen as iterative steps in an implementation cycle. Since they are not necessarily sequential, the practical arrangements of how and where the various elements occur in a particular management system can be adapted to its purposes during implementation.

1.  Identify the ecosystem as a geographical entity based on ecological criteria (18 Arctic Large Marine Ecosystems have been defined).
2. Describe the ecosystem in terms of its biological and physical characteristics (species and habitats), as well as the physical and biological processes and relationships that define them into an ecosystem. Describing an ecosystem should also identify relevant management systems including responsible agencies and jurisdictional aspects, as well as the indigenous people and the stakeholders residing in that defined geographical area.
3. Setting ecological objectives for ecosystem components (species and habitats) and for the overall state of the ecosystem includes a description of sustainability i.e. the overall desirable status/level of pressures. Ecological objectives are translated into management objectives as the final stage in the cycle.
4. Assess the ecosystem by gathering synoptic observations on the status and trends of all relevant ecosystem components in an integrated assessment. Integrated assessment includes measuring or estimating the impacts by various human activities such as fishing, pollution, coastal development, and socioeconomic factors as well as the overall or cumulative impacts of those activities.
5. Value the ecosystem by identifying and valuing its goods and services in order that economic, social and cultural values may be more fully incorporated into mainstream socioeconomics. Socioeconomics in the broadest sense comes into play in all elements of the EA. Social, cultural and econominc values of ecosystem goods and services are essential information for the sustainable management of the Arctic.
6. Manage human activities to maintain the agreed ecological objectives. In a process that occurs outside the Arctic Council managers apply methods for shaping human behavior that are adaptive, meaning that actions are regularly tailored to the shifting ecological and social conditions. Making the best use of available scientific and other knowledge, the outcomes of integrated assessments need to be translated through a scientific advisory process into clear and transparent advice to inform adaptive management.


Joint EA Expert Group

PAME established in 2007 an EA expert group to better focus its work on EA within its mandate for the protection of the Arctic marine environment. The scope and membership of this expert group was extended in 2011 to include the participation of relevant Arctic Council working groups addressing marine related issues, with representation from PAME, CAFF, SDWG, AMAP, permanent participants, and observers.

This joint EA-EG membership collectively contributes to the integration of EA implementation into the overall work of the Arctic Council. It also provides a mechanism to facilitate the exchange and review of information and experiences gained to support the development of a common and coordinated approach to the implementation of the EA by Arctic states.


shutterstock 66344887ICES/PAME Working Group on Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) for the Central Arctic Ocean
The priority of WGICA is to provide integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs) including ecosystem overviews for the Central Arctic Ocean. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​Preparing an IEA for the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO) gives ICES a central role in this remote and changing ecosystem and is a step needed to provide scientific advice on issues such as the prospect for future fisheries in the Arctic Ocean and sensitivity and vulnerability in relation to shipping activitites.

The working group also aims to improve the understanding of climate and ecosystem variability of the core ICES area in the North Atlantic as well as in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska in the North Pacific.

WGICA will consider approaches and methodologies for the IEA in the Central Arctic Ocean. For this purpose it will collect the relevant data and carry out analyses. Moreover, core research areas will be identified and outline of the CAO ecosystem will be developed.

See alsoEA Documents documents and reports