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POL562: Module Three Lecture

POL562: Module Three Lecture

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Published by Chad J. McGuire
Ecosystem-based management principles using natural systems theory.
Ecosystem-based management principles using natural systems theory.

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Published by: Chad J. McGuire on Dec 14, 2012
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04/30/2014

 
III. Science – Natural SystemsEcosystem-Based Management
 
A. Definition and Purpose
 
Ecosystem-based management
is truly about
combining 
our understanding and thinkingof 
natural systems
with
human-created
institutions. This is very much a
 primer 
on howto use information about natural systems and apply that information to a
process
 (framework) that inculcates natural system elements into decision-making. The key tounderstanding this management process may best be seen by revisiting the figure fromthe text describing an ecosystem-based management process:The
purpose
of the management process outlined above is to allow for 
learning
to occur as a means of managing natural systems. Recall that natural systems are
dynamic
,meaning they are constantly in a state of change (although the upper and lower limits of those changes cancel out over time to create an
equilibrium state
).
1
The dynamic natureof systems can influence a management plan by altering some of the assumptionsinherent in the plan. As a simplified example,
fisheries management
generally includessetting a
limit
of allowable catch
(quota)
each season. The quota established is usually
1
This is where statistics is helpful in understanding the concept of averages and variationfrom the mean. An equilibrium state is the
average
background condition of the naturalsystem. When the system is stressed beyond a
threshold 
, then it is possible for the systemto move to a
new
background average, a new equilibrium state (see, that
 stats
coursedoes have application after all!).
 
 based on actual sampling of the target fish population and the utilization of statistics tomake an informed guess about the total population (we actually never know the real total population – our estimate is based on reasonable assumptions attached to actual catchesof the species). This informed guess is then used to establish a catch limit. Even if weassumed all of our 
information
and
assumptions
were correct, the dynamic characteristicof natural systems means some of those assumptions can change over time. For example,there may be a new disease of 
 fin rot 
that appears in the target species of fish in a particular season, causing a significant portion of the population to die off due to the newdisease. The disease (an example of a dynamic interaction) alters our originalmanagement plan by changing the total population of fish presumed, thus likely affectingour set catch limit. When this new information becomes available to those creating themanagement plan
learning
occurs, and this learning then sets the stage for changing themanagement plan – adapting management to the newly learned information.The point in the preceding example can be summarized as follows:
 
Dynamic
natural systems are subject to change at any time.
 
Because of the constant of change,
management styles
also need to be capable of change to keep up with the natural system changes; management styles need to beadaptive.
 
Adaptive management
techniques include a
process
that allows for 
newinformation
to be immediately ‘ingested’ into the decision-making process. Theingestion of the new information informs the management process in order tomeet the original
goals
of the policy.
B. Role in Environmental Management
 
From a larger perspective,
ecosystem-based management
allows for a management philosophy (including the development and implementation of policy goals) that providesfor the internalization of 
natural system values
, including the
 provisioning, regulating,
and
cultural 
services mentioned in the previous section. Assume the
 fin rot 
diseasementioned earlier was caused by bacteria, and the bacteria was in particularly highconcentrations because of nutrient runoff from nearby farms thus causing the outbreak inthe target fish population. Assume further the nutrient runoff used to be neutralized by asaltwater marsh (wetland) that was filled in for a residential development project; themarsh would filter out the nutrients and stabilize them in the marsh environment beforethey escaped into the open waters. Now with these assumptions we can identify thefollowing services:
 
The
target fish species
is a
provisioning service
that is directly used by humansfor consumption. Once captured, the fish species is openly sold and resold in amarket system. Thus, the direct value of the fish species is relatively easy toidentify.
 
 
The
agricultural practices
on the farm are also
provisioning services
; land thatwas once in a ‘natural’ state has been altered to grow produce and other productfor human consumption. To enhance growing rates and product yield, fertilizer (nutrients) is spread on the field. The products yielded on the farm are regularlysold in market systems, thus the direct value of the agricultural practice can beascertained.
 
The
salt marsh (wetland)
is a
regulating service
; one of the regulating services provided by the wetland was to filter out nutrient runoff from nearby farms thus preventing the nutrients from causing bacteria blooms and, in this case, fin rot.This is one example of how the salt marsh provided
indirect services
to thecommercial fishing industry.
 
Land transition
from salt marsh to residential development is a
provisioningservice
in the same way that land transitioned to agricultural use (describedabove).It is likely the value of the salt marsh as a
contributor 
to the health of the commercial fish population was
unknown
. However, it is a
 fact 
that that salt marsh contributed to thehealth of the commercial fish species. The value of the marsh then can be
indirectly
calculated by the value of the commercial fish lost to the fin rot disease.
2
From anecosystem-based management perspective a few points can be highlighted:
 
Like the assumption about
biodiversity
, we can assume that ecosystems – including parts of ecosystems – are contributors to the overall health andwellbeing of the natural system.
 
Because components of the system may be critical in helping to maintain theintegrity of the larger system, a
presumption
that everything natural is importantmay not be an unreasonable assumption to start from when engaging inenvironmental policy.
 
Under an assumption that everything is important, a
precautionary approach
 may be a superior starting point for any environmental policy.
 
Adaptive management
techniques are an essential process-orientated means of internalizing the presumption of ecosystem value and working with precaution because the policy technique is meant to change based on the assumption thatnature will constantly be evolving and ‘telling’ us more about how it helps to provide us with valuable services (ala Costanza).
2
Note: this is just
one
of the values the salt marsh provided, there likely are many other regulating services it provided as well.

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