U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Ecosystems are dynamic complexes of biotic communities and their associated abiotic environments interacting as functional units. An ecosystem approach to conservation is the management of natural resources using systemwide concepts to ensure that all plants and animals in the ecosystem are maintained at viable levels in native habitats and basic ecosystem processes are perpetuated indefinitely (Clark and Zaunbrecher, 1987).
An ecosystem approach to conservation involves protecting or restoring the function, structure, and species composition of an ecosystem, recognizing that all components are interrelated (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1994). Large-scale approaches, at the level of ecosystems and landscapes, are the most reliable way to conserve biological diversity. Such approaches avoid the problems that plague species-by-species methods that quickly exhaust time, financial resources, public patience, and scientific research resources (Franklin, 1993).
Another important aspect of an ecosystem approach to conservation is the ability to integrate ecosystem protection and restoration with human values and needs as a way to strengthen the connection between economic prosperity and environmental well being. The Service recognizes the fundamental connection between human communities and the environment. To this end, the Service?s approach provides a ?framework? that brings together federal, state, local, and tribal governments and the public to achieve the ultimate goal of a healthy and sustainable environments. Within this framework, goals are developed based on collaboratively developed visions of desired future conditions, future conditions that integrate ecological, economic, and social factors within a geographic framework defined by ecological boundaries. The framework is supported by a number of ecosystem teams and a variety of other public and private partnerships.
Please follow this link to view a presentation about the Ecosystem Approach to conservation in outline format.
To learn more about ecosystems, their status and trend, and other ecosystem approaches to conservation, please visit these sites:
The State of the Nation's Ecosystems
In September 2002, The Heinz Center released The State of the Nation's Ecosystems, the product of five years work by nearly 150 individuals from environmental organizations, businesses, universities, and federal, state, and local government. It presents a vision for periodic, high-quality, nonpartisan reporting on the condition and use of the nation's lands, waters, and living resources. The report also identifies specific indicators for the nation's ecosystems, provides data on current conditions and past trends (where they are available), and highlights the many significant gaps in our ability to adequately describe key characteristics of these systems.
Endangered Ecosystems of the United States: A Preliminary Assessment of Loss and Degradation
This report estimates the declines of natural ecosystems in the United States, provides a rationale for ecosystem-level conservation, discuss decline and threat as criteria for conservation, and relates ecosystem losses to endangerment at species and population levels.
Ecosystem Management Initiative
The Ecosystem Management Initiative is housed in the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Its mission is promoting sustainable natural resource management through ecosystem-based teaching, research, and outreach.
- Community-Based Approaches: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Community-Based Environmental Protection (CBEP) integrates environmental management with human needs, considers long-term ecosystem health and highlights the positive correlations between economic prosperity and environmental well-being.