Communicating the ecosystem approach

Various people have sought to communicate the text of the original 12 principles of the ecosystem approach in ways that are easier to understand and apply.

In 2016, Scottish Natural Heritage published an evaluation framework for applying the ecosystem approach containing the following simplified summary of the 12 principles:

1 We are all in the same boat

Acknowledge the rights of all to share decisions over the care of nature and natural resources.

2 Local is best

Allow decisions to be led locally, as far as practicable.

3 Think of others

Take care to consider the effects on others, including neighbouring ecosystems.

4 Only reward good practice

Use economic tools to support the care and wise use of nature, and avoid perverse incentives.

5 The health of ecosystems is paramount

Give priority to natural systems (and their long term benefits) above individual species.

6 Don’t over-exploit

Keep any use of natural systems to limits well within their capacity for renewal/recovery.

7 Choose the right scale

Draw boundaries and timescales to match natural processes and minimize adverse effects.

8 Look well ahead

Treat long term stability as a key objective - not just short term benefits.

9 Be sensitive and flexible

Adapt the pattern of any use as natural systems change, both naturally and under pressure.

10 Remember our place in nature

Respect and value all nature – and for its own sake, as well as for the uses we can make of it.

11 Value all knowledge and perspectives

Gather and share information from all sources to understand our relationship with nature.

12 Engage everyone

Try to get the benefit of input from all relevant interests, at all levels, when making decisions. 

In other cases, there have been attempts at distilling the principles into a smaller number or into categories. The Ecosystems Knowledge Network has distilled them into three, using the infographic below.  The UK National Ecosystem Assessment arranged the twelve in four categories.

Viewpoint articles

See articles prepared for the Ecosystems Knowledge Network explain what the approach is and how it differs from related terms:

The 9th Issue of Ecosystems News, the Ecosystems Knowledge Network's newsletter was about communicating ecosystem terminology.