Ecosystem Approach

Ecosystem Approach Sourcebook - Tools and Approaches


The following list gives an indication of the types of tools and approaches which can be used to meet the ecosystem approach principles. The list is not exhaustive and other methods can be used. If you are supplying information on a case study and have used different methods please provide as much information as possible on this in the questionnaire under the 'Other' category.
Further information on some of the tools can be accessed via the links provided. As the Sourcebook is further populated with case studies, tools and approaches additional information on methods will be added to the list.

Public Participation

Workshop based methods Community based methods Methods for stakeholder consultation
  • multi-criteria analysis involving stakeholders;
  • stakeholder consultation as part of strategic environmental analysis;
  • oral research and other research to collect information from communities for wider dissemination;
  • involving stakeholders in the design and implementation of research (participatory research);
Local community approaches
  • Traditional management practices
  • Community forums
  • Sustainable self-governance (though often not realised to be sustainable but seen as traditional)
Social analysis Conflict management methods
    conflict management;
  • establishing fora for reaching consensus on balance, partnerships, the establishment of trust;
  • conflict resolution;

Education and Awareness

  • communication strategy, plan and tools;
  • feedback research and monitoring results
  • Posting information on the Web eg Clearing House Mechanism (CHM) of the CBD
  • translation of documents into local/non-technical language;
  • public awareness campaigns (radio, TV, the press, publications, theatre);
  • information and popularized science to transfer scientific results to decision-makers and stakeholders
  • GIS tools, and other imaging methods to allow people to envisage their ecosystem;
  • education to empower communities to understand the relationship between their fundamental goals and ecosystem management;
  • collaborative learning with all levels;
  • capacity building;
  • helping stakeholders understand scientific methods and adaptive management methods
  • helping stakeholder to use new tools and technologies to reduce work effort / energy consumption (eg fuel efficient stoves, ploughing techniques etc)
  • information networks (online data and information), list serves, cross-sectoral roundtables, information exchange arenas, adaptive management workshops;
  • communication networks and forums
Moral confrontation
  • monkeywrenching / ecoterrorisim;

Governance, Law and Policy

  • democratic tools;
  • recognition of the types of power structures that exist in society, and use of institutional analysis;
  • legal, policy, planning, technical and financial instruments;
  • outsourcing of control to the private sector/NGOs (although this may be a risky option in many circumstances);
  • facilitating or allowing additional effort by private sector groups to supplement government efforts;
  • multi-disciplinary think tank, multi-party agreements/ policies;
  • cross-sectoral trust fund management committees, friends of groups, and other to support management;
Legislation and treaties
  • International treaties/directives;
  • Supranational directives and legislation;
  • National regulations and legislation;
  • Regional and local regulations and legislation;
Assessment Techniques Litigation and enforcement
  • policy and regulation, e.g. polluter pays principle; development of markets for ecosystem services,;
  • laws and the potential for criminal prosecution (eg through enforcement agencies);
Policy development, planning and reform
  • policies to address adjacent and off-site impacts;
  • broad scale management systems, such as river basin authorities, central government planning systems;
  • national development planning, strategies, management plans and programmes;
  • developing information management structures at across policy levels;
  • national conferences, workshops, etc to examine cross-boundary effects and enhance cooperation between managers of adjacent systems;
  • integrated land use planning;
  • cross-sectoral planning;

Management and Incentives

Business management tools
  • change management tools (i.e. tools for managing changes in institutions), including tools for decentralising money and staff resources;
  • institutional analysis tools, business systems theory, management theory;
  • mechanisms to deal with lack of continuity in institutions, including clear documentation, induction processes; information sharing systems (e.g. Aarhus convention), audit trails;
  • mechanisms for identifying the appropriate community of interest;
  • tools for building institutional capacity;
  • policy, planning and decision-making systems;
  • DPSIR (driving forces-pressures-state-impact-response);
Environmental accounting Adaptive management Practical management techniques
  • reserve management plans
  • annual work programmes
  • practical management manuals and handbooks
  • identification and promotion of good practices, guidelines, case studies, codes of conduct, risk assessment
Practical skills
  • techniques (eg grazing densities, individual tree management, dune stabilisation techniques)
  • tool development (new tools which benefit physical management – eg seed harvesters)
  • technology development and technology transfer (better resource use eg solar and wind energy)
Conservation enterprises/Diversification
  • ecotourism;
  • alternative employment opportunities and income-generating activities (not necessarily connected to conservation, but leading to sustainability);
  • alternative resource use;
  • multifunctional use of resources (for either or social, economic and environmental benefits)
Market pressure
  • Certification, labelling schemes,
  • value-added processing and marketing,;
  • Boycotts;

Data, Monitoring and Modelling

Data collection
  • remote sensing;
  • satellites, GIS systems, aerial photographs;
  • inventories;
  • assessments;
  • surveys;
  • growth and yield studies;
  • local knowledge
Monitoring methods Modelling
  • modelling systems (scientific) coupled with the necessary data;
  • scenario building and development, (eg climate and socio-cultural);
  • spatial land-use models, landscape visualisation; watershed and river basin models;
  • reconstructing history of system, including pollen, carbon dating, ice cores, traditional knowledge, folklore, and covering of cultural and economic issues;

Protected Areas and Land Use Policy

Protected/managed areas
  • ecological network frameworks;
  • national protected area system frameworks;
  • biosphere reserves and other protected areas;
  • ecological corridors
  • Integrated river basin management, large marine ecosystems, natural areas, INRM;
  • Transboundary protected areas
  • Integration of protected areas into wider land and sea scapes
Land use policy
  • management and restoration plans;
  • land care strategies;
  • landscape planning;
  • biosphere reserves and other protected areas;
  • national forest programmes;
  • land banking
Managed/protected species
  • legislation banning persecution of protected species;
  • managed realignment;
  • habitat restoration;
Ex-situ protection
  • captive breeding;
  • gene banking;

Cross-sectoral Research and Working

  • interdisciplinary research such as in functional analysis, ethnobotanical studies, strengthening of capacity, both individual and institutional to undertake research;
  • cross-sectoral roundtables
  • intersectoral working groups;
  • cross-sectoral planning and policy systems;


  • monitoring, evaluation and review, yield, other indices, carrying capacities;
  • performance indicators, targets;
  • logical framework approach;
  • SMART indicators;

Other Tools and Resources Available to Assist with Application of the Ecosystem Approach