Ecosystem Approach

Ecosystem Approach Sourcebook - Case-Study Details

1. Project Details
Author or Responsible Organization English Nature
Project Title Living with the Sea
Date of Publication
Project Status Completed
Project Start Date
Project End Date
Countries United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Regions Western Europe and Others
Funding Source Multilateral
2. Background to Project
Project Issue/Problem Statement To promote: Understanding of long term (30-100 year) coastal change resulting from sea level rise Sustainable integrated coastal management policies Ownership of shared issues and common solutions To develop: Mechanisms for delivering Habitats Directive compliant flood and coastal defence schemes e.g. Coastal Habitat Management Plans (CHaMPs) Practical ways of demonstrating habitat creation at work e.g. North Norfolk Flood Defence schemes Working partnership between engineers, conservationists and landowners
Project Description The project aims to aid the UK's delivery of the European Birds and Habitats Directives. It addresses some of the difficult issues emerging from the implementation of the Directives on dynamic coastlines. The aim was to develop a policy and management approach to deal with the dynamic change and its impact on the ecological requirements of designated features and promote best practice to achieve consistency in addressing these issues.
Conclusions A number of key principles have arisen out of the project that need to be integrated into the management of dynamic coastal features. It is essential that there is an understanding of the contribution that of dynamic processes make to the ecological requirements of coastal habitats and species. Form and function of ecosystems is a key factor in the determination of conservation status, across the network of sites and the wider environment, and should be taken into account in conservation measures. Site management plans and conservation measures at a wider level should facilitate the response to dynamic change, promoting form and function and transitional features. Putting change at a site level into a boarder context helps to determine management decisions. Site management plans, conservation objecitves and subsequent management decisions to achieve favourable conservation status should be focused on delivering habitats in the most naturally sustainable location. Information is an essential component in achieving all of the above. Development of systems that can integrate data and spatial information will help to visualise actual and predicted changes and incorporate data from existing monitoring and new research.
3. Sectors and Biomes
Sectors Agriculture
Biomes Agricultural Biodiversity
Marine and Coastal Biodiversity
4. Tools and Approaches
Tools and Approaches   Relevance
Public Participation 3-High
- Workshop based methods 3-High
- Community based methods 3-High
- Methods for stakeholder consultation 3-High
Education and Awareness 3-High
- Communication 3-High
Governance, Law and Policy 3-High
- Policy development, planning and reform 3-High
Management and Incentives 2-Medium
- Adaptive management 3-High A guide to the creation of Coastal Habitat Management Plans has been produced. More information is available at
- Practical management techniques 3-High A good practice guide for coastal habitat restoration has been produced as part of the project. This can be found at
Data, Monitoring and Modelling 3-High
- Data collection 3-High
- Monitoring methods 3-High
- Modelling 3-High
Protected Areas and Land Use Policy 3-High
- Protected/managed areas 3-High
Cross-sectoral Research and Working 3-High
5. Issues
Issues   Relevance
Climate Change and Biodiversity 2-Medium
Public Participation 3-High
Sustainable Use of Biodiversity 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 2-Medium
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 3-High
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 A: Focus on the relationships and processes within ecosystem 3-High
Operational Guidance B: Enhance benefit-sharing 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 CHaMPs filled an important gap in our coastal planning process but they have also highlighted other aspects of decision making where there is still much to learn before fully integrated policies can be delivered. Coastal schemes take a long time to implement. This worked to our favour at one site because it allowed time for a full review of this proposal against the newly developed awareness arising from the project's success in promoting sustainable habitat solutions and management. As a result the scheme was suspended and decoupled from the project. Although it meant a change to the project's activities, it was a milestone in sustainable coastal decision-making. The framework study has indicated that many of the difficulties that the UK is having in delivering its conservation and coastal management policies result from the way the Habitats and Birds Directives have been incorporated into UK law. This is now leading to a re-evaluation of how we have interpreted these Directives. It is also driving a new UK vision of how ecosystems operate on a bio-geographic scale and respond to geomorphological and climate change. The project has highlighted a national need to inform and develop the wider public's vision of what our countryside and coasts will look like in 100 years time. Currently there is no on-going campaign by government or stakeholders to achieve this. Given a shared vision our coastal decisions would more effectively promote the principles of sustainable development and communities would become informed participants.
Outcomes The tangible outcomes were: guidance on the production of CHaMPs; seven pilot ChaMPs; practical habitat restoration; a good practice guide to habitat restoration; and a framework for managing Natura 2000 sites on dynamic coasts. The project brief was very ambitious, developing novel and sometimes contentious strategic approaches to meet both the emerging needs of nature conservation and flood and coastal defence. The bid was prepared against a very tight timescale. This resulted in some of the estimates of time and cost being based on very broad information that could have been more accurately prepared. Therefore some of the actions needed to be reviewed at an early stage to ensure they were deliverable. This resulted in an early revision of the business case. As a result the prject had a realistic basis to set targets for quality, cost and programme. The project board was an essential element of the overall project operation. This worked very well, ensuring the partners were actively involved and at the centre of all important project decisions involving money, quality and programme. This provided the project manager with a direct route for communication with partners ensuring the project met its objectives and added value to the project management process. The advisory group provided a platform for the project to involve key national stakeholders. This was essential to support the individual actions undertaken by the project, but also ensured the novel thinking and original solutions being developed were shared with this national audience as soon as possible. This led to shared responsibility for the ultimate success of coastal decision-making. Where this group did not help was in gaining support for individual actions at the local level. The project had to renew efforts in local consultation on several occassions to ensure success in delivery of schemes at one site and the completion of CHaMPs. This reflected a lack of communication within many stakeholder groups between their national and local counterparts. It also indicated that projects often cut back on consultation at the bid stage to save time and money on what is often seen as an intangible product ie public opinion. This is a common problem, and is still a major impediment to delivery of novel schemes and strategies across the UK.
Other Information For further information visit the English Nature Website at
8. References
9. Contact Details
Contact Person Diana Mortimer
Job Title Ecosystem Approach Officer
Organization Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Address Monkstone House, City Road,
Postal Code PE13 4LA
City Peterborough
ZIP/State/Province Cambs
Telephone +44 1733 866857
Fax +44 1733 555948
E-mail Address
Web Site