The Ecosystem based approach (EBA) finds it origins in the initial definition proposed by Grumbine (1994) as “ecosystem approach”, establishing that it integrates scientific knowledge of ecological relationships within a complex sociopolitical and values framework toward the general goal of protecting native ecosystems integrity over the long term” (p. 31). In its very meaning, EBA reflects on the integrated management of natural resources towards sustainability, expanding targets and objectives beyond environmental protection and conservation per se (Slocombe, 1998). In practice, environmental protection and conservation emerge as the results of effective ecosystem-based management processes, based on the integration of ecosystem functioning and dynamics with governance aspects according to an adaptive approach.
EBA has been recognized at policy level, as in the Convention on Biological Diversity (2000), which defines the ecosystem approach as a “strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way”. The conservation of biological diversity is crucial to support the provisioning of ecosystem goods and services for human well-being.
The Marine STrategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC) and the Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning (2014/89/EC) appoint EBA as the approach to be adopted for, respectively, the achievement of the Good ENvironmental State, and for the elaboration and implementation of Marine Spatial Plans to support Blue Growth. EBA finds several application in terrestrial, coastal and marine environments for its flexibility and adaptability to local conditions and specific management and planning objectives.
EBA is supported by the application of models and decision support tools, to identify priorities, synergies, conflicts and trade-offs within decision making processes. The research group adopts techniques related to Ecosystem Services assessment, analysis of coexistence and cumulative impacts and other specific tools as MARXAN (Watts and Possingham, 2013). As research perspective, the development of Ecosystem-based adaptation is considered in adaptation and mitigation of Climate changes, to mantain and support resilience of social-ecological systems, and to reduce vulnerability of ecosystems and of local communities (CBD, 2009).
CBD [Convention on Biological Diversity] (2000), COP 5 Decision V/6, Retired sections: paragraphs 4-5. Ecosystem approach; http://www.cbd.int/decision/cop/default.shtml?id=7148, Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Nairobi, Kenya, 15 – 26 May 2000
CBD [Convention on Biological Diversity] (2009), Connecting Biodiversity and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation: Report of the Second Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Biodiversity and Climate Change. Technical Series No. 41. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Montreal, Canada. 126 pp
Grumbine, E. (1994), “What is ecosystem management?”, in Conservation Biology 8(1), pp. 27–38.
Slocombe D.S. (1998), “Lessons from experience with ecosystem-based management”, Landscape and Urban Planning, 40, pp. 31–39
Watts, M.E. and Possingham, H.P. (2013), Marxan.net: Cloud infrastructure for systematic conservation planning. URL http://marxan.net