Ecosystem Approach

Ecosystem Approach Sourcebook - Case-Study Details

1. Project Details
Author or Responsible Organization The Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT) in partnership with Royal Holloway Institute for Environmental Research (RHIER)
Project Title Practical Application of the Ecosystem Approach in River Catchments -Cornwall Rivers Project
Date of Publication 01/01/2002
Project Status Completed
Project Start Date
Project End Date
Countries United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Regions Central and Eastern Europe
Funding Source
2. Background to Project
Project Issue/Problem Statement Plans are worked up between project advisors and the farmer or landowner and offer practical win-win solutions to achieving environmental improvement using direct and indirect economic and social gains as the primary incentives. In this way the approved appeals to the most urgent and immediate needs of the farm, whilst simultaneously contributing to the wider social and ecological objectives of catchments scale enhancement.
Project Description The Cornwall Rivers Project has involved working closely with over 1000 farmers and landowners and the production of economic-led Integrated River Basin Resource Management. Plans for each farm or land unit covering in excess of 50,000 hectares. The advice given within the projects is targeted and administered on a precautionary basis and reliant on their cost-effective nature, together with the goodwill and level of awareness raised amongst land managers for longer term sustainability. Most of the direct economic benefit comes to the particular landowner implementing the advice within the first year. This has been estimated, on average, as £2,300 per farm/per year (a significant increase on existing incomes) and mostly results from advice regarding the optimizing of farm inputs, water separation and leak reduction, improved stock health and diversification, which may include direct angling and tourism revenues. Environmental benefits include those resulting from fertilizer/nutrient reduction, reduced sedimentation due to erosion control improving fish spawning sites and increasing biodiversity from habitat restoration.
Highlighted Aspects of Ecosystem Approach 1. Objectives are a matter of societal choice: Although this may seem obvious it has proved to be a key point where many projects fail. WRT projects rely on being closely in touch with “grass roots” concerns and aspirations, on raising funds and on engaging stakeholders on a voluntary basis to bring about change. The Trust has no regulatory powers so a project has to carry along the people involved with it. Usually this will come down to individuals and communities identifying “enlightened self-interest”. The science behind each project is subject to public scrutiny and the results highly visible. Of course, societal choice, particularly when expressed as part of the political system or democratic process, may well be “wrong” and “require re-focusing”. Working at grassroots level often allows new approaches to be tested and successful working examples may then become incorporated into mainstream policy.2. Management should be undertaken at the lowest appropriate level: This is an effective point and leads to the engagement and empowerment of the people who actually own and manage the land or resource or are contributing to their community in other ways. Projects have benefited from being non-prescriptive and not being implemented by regulatory authorities.3. Consider the effects on adjacent/other ecosystems: The catchments approach adopted by the Rivers Trust has proven the importance of this point many times.Actions upstream inevitably influence downstream ecological and environmental conditions together with human communities.4. Understand and manage ecosystems in an economic context: The Rivers Trust has found that the economic factors are the principle drivers leading change and the key to achieving adjustment and working towards sustainability.5. Conservation of ecosystem structure and functioning is a priority: Two good examples of this demonstrated in WRT projects include drainage of wetlands and reduced soil infiltration rates as a result of intensive land use practices, which negatively impair catchments functioning.6. Manage within limits of functioning: Agriculture pushes this principle to the limit and breakdowns indicate a failure to respect this.7. Use appropriate spatial and temporal scales: The Trust generally uses catchments, sub-catchments, farm and field. Temporal scales are vital in farming terms including time of year of farming operations and life cycles of species, e.g. salmon.8. Objectives for Ecosystem Management should be long term: Land management is a long-term issue - unfortunately governments tend to plan and operate short term.9. Management must recognize that change is inevitable: The need to accept, adapt and plan for this point was brought out many times during WRT projects e.g. Foot and Mouth Disease, house price spiral, increased demand for recreation and falling farm gate prices.10. Keep an appropriate balance between integration of conservation and use of biological diversity: This has been a more contentious issue, balance being the key word. In short most organizations and government agrienvironment policy has been species or habitat driven in the region. Fragmentation and failure has occurred when wider ecological and environmental service provision has been ignored. The wider perspective embodied within the Ecosystem Approach has enabled greater balance to be achieved.11. Consider all relevant information: Holistic is an overused word but the WRT has found pursuing both the water cycle and economics as driver and pathfinder and then considering all adverse impacts has been both practical and successful.12. Involve all relevant sectors of society and science: Culminating in a continually evolving “Best Practice” approach with joined-up thinking converted into joined-up action.
Conclusions The work of the Trust has gained the confidence of both the local communities and the statutory authorities through its non-regulatory, non-prescriptive approach. The individual landowners themselves are not generally conscious of the Ecosystem Approach concept but they are very willing participants in a process which is achieving the objectives of the CBD through its implementation. The key lies in the essential coupling of people, economics, ecology and environment within an atmosphere of enlightened self-interest.It is essential to translate scientific and technical understanding into information and actions which individuals can fully understand and which can leverage wider benefits. The approach is proving highly successful in the Westcountry with farmers increasingly interested in participating in the projects largely through word-of-mouth contact. There is increasing interest in the model being emulated in other regions of the UK.
3. Sectors and Biomes
Biomes Agricultural Biodiversity
4. Tools and Approaches
Tools and Approaches   Relevance
Public Participation 3-High
Education and Awareness 3-High
Data, Monitoring and Modelling 3-High
5. Issues
Issues   Relevance
Public Participation 3-High
Sustainable Use of Biodiversity 3-High
Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices - Article 8(j) 3-High
6. Ecosystem Approach
Principles and Operational Guidance   Relevance
(Only if NOT relevant)
Principle 1: The objectives of management of land, water and living resources are a matter of societal choices 3-High
Principle 2: Management should be decentralized to the lowest appropriate level 3-High
Principle 3: Ecosystem managers should consider the effects (actual or potential) of their activities on adjacent and other ecosystems 3-High
Principle 4: Recognizing potential gains from management, there is usually a need to understand and manage the ecosystem in an economic context 3-High
Principle 5: Conservation of ecosystem structure and functioning, in order to maintain ecosystem services, should be a priority target of the ecosystem approach 3-High
Principle 6: Ecosystem must be managed within the limits of their functioning 1-Low
Principle 7: The ecosystem approach should be undertaken at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales 3-High
Principle 8: Recognizing the varying temporal scales and lag-effects that characterize ecosystem processes, objectives for ecosystem management should be set for the long term 3-High
Principle 9: Management must recognize the change is inevitable 3-High
Principle 10: The ecosystem approach should seek the appropriate balance between, and integration of, conservation and use of biological diversity 3-High
Principle 11: The ecosystem approach should consider all forms of relevant information, including scientific and indigenous and local knowledge, innovations and practices 3-High
Principle 12: The ecosystem approach should involve all relevant sectors of society and scientific disciplines 3-High
Operational Guidance C: Use adaptive management practices 3-High
Operational Guidance D: Carry out management actions at the scale appropriate for the issue being addressed, with decentralization to lowest level, as appropriate 3-High
Operational Guidance E: Ensure intersectoral cooperation 3-High
7. Lessons Learned and the Outcomes
Lessons Learned The Ecosystem Approach has provided an invaluable template which the Trust has applied to each project. It has served as an important tool in determining project scale, the targeting of effort, gaining engagement of stakeholders, empowering communities and most importantly ensuring a successful self-sustaining exit strategy.
Other Information
8. References
References Horst Korn, Rainer Schliep & Jutta Stadler (Eds.) 2003. Report of the International Workshop on the “Further Development of the Ecosystem Approach: International Academy for Nature Conservation Isle of Vilm, Germany, October 9-11, 2002.” Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. Bonn, Germany.
9. Contact Details
Contact Person Ms Leah Mohammed
Job Title Intern
Organization CBD
Address Montreal World Trade Centre
393 Saint-Jaques, 8th floor
Postal Code H2Y 1N9
City Montreal
ZIP/State/Province Quebec
Country Canada
Telephone 514-288-2220
E-mail Address