Ecosystem management: What is it really?
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Ecosystem management is managing areas at various scales in such a way that ecological services and biological resources are conserved while appropriate human uses are sustained. Major ecological services include allocation of productivity (energy flow), maintenance of soil fertility (nutrient cycling), and operation of the hydrologic cycle. Biological resources encompass all natural variation found in genes, species, and communities along with the processes that maintain this variation. The appropriateness and sustainability of human uses are dictated by the constraints imposed by the biological and physical environment and by legal mandates for land use. There are seven critical steps in ecosystem management. These are: (1) delineate (define) the ecosystem to be managed; (2) define strategic management goals; (3) develop a comprehensive understanding of the ecosystem; (4) obtain socioeconomic data; (5) link the socioeconomic and ecological data in an appropriate model; (6) implement experimental management actions; and (7) monitor management results to determine long-term success or failure. The significance of ecosystem management is that it focuses on ecological systems as a whole rather than on just some of their parts, includes public involvement in the goal-setting process, integrates conservation into economic activity, and represents a paradigm shift from 'linear comprehensive' management to 'cyclic-incremental' or 'adaptive' management.
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