Three faces of ecosystem management
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The debate over the objectives and methods of ecosystem management has been confusing, in part because people truly mean different things when they use the term ecosystem management. These different meanings reflect differences in interests, values, and knowledge. I organized these meanings into three sets: "environmentally sensitive multiple use," an "ecosystem approach to resource management," and "ecoregional management." Environmentally sensitive multiple use takes an anthropocentric perspective that seeks to foster multiple human uses subject to an understanding of environmental constraints that goes beyond that considered in traditional multiple-use management. An ecosystem approach incorporates a biocentric view in which ecosystems are understood as a metaphor for holistic thinking requiring an expanded consideration of the dynamism and complexity of ecological systems, scale phenomena, and the need for management across ownership boundaries. Ecoregional management takes an ecocentric perspective that focuses on the management of specific landscape ecosystems defined as real geographic spaces and that shifts management focus toward ecosystem processes and away from biota. Understanding these three conceptualizations as different points along a continuum of resource management paradigms helps clarify the different visions of ecosystem management held by different groups. Because different places and groups are at various points on the continuum, progress comes from moving along the continuum and not necessarily by seeking a single state called "ecosystem management." Policy prescriptions, such as changes in law, incentives, and information provision, can be targeted more effectively to the realities of different settings. Ultimately, the conceptualization suggests that heterogeneity of ecosystem management approaches is desirable, as long as we learn from the diverse experiences that result.