Ecosystems of the Arctic
The 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."
EA Documents and Reports
PAME regularly publishes EA documents and reports. Click here to access PAME's EA documents.
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.
Status of Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Management in the Arctic (2017)
PAME established an Ecosystem Approach Expert Group in 2007 that was broadened as a Joint PAME/AMAP/CAFF/SDWG Ecosystem Approach Expert Group (EA-EG) in 2011. One of the products to be produced as part of the 2015-2017 work plan was a report, Status of Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Management in the Arctic. The EA-EG convened an International Science and Policy Conference on “The Ecosystem Approach to Management: Status of Implementation in the Arctic” in Fairbanks, Alaska, 23-25 August 2016. The outcome of the conference was used as part of the basis for the report.
The report is structured by noting first the agreed definition and principles of the Ecosystem Approach to Management (EA), followed by a short history of EA work under the Arctic Council. Next, two of the main achievements of the EA-EG is summarized: a framework for EA implementation, and the division of the Arctic marine area into 18 Large Marine Ecosystems. Then follows a description of the EA or EBM recommendations from Kiruna (2013) and the follow up work by AC working groups and specifically by the EA-EG. The main outcome of the Fairbanks conference is described along with a section on roles the AC can play in facilitating EA implementation by Arctic states. Some notes on national EA implementation is then provided before a final section with conclusions and next steps.
Six elements of the Ecosystem Approach (PAME EA-EG)
The 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.