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Reconstructing EBM before Things Fall Apart

The IntersectionBy Sheril KirshenbaumJune 22, 2007 11:27 PM


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For a few years now, folks have been up in arms trying to come up with a universally accepted definition for Ecosystem Based Management - a goal about as realistic as an episode of Laguna Beach. At best, it's a theoretical approach, so instead of debating what it means, we should be asking how to implement strategies that incorporate the broad principles of this concept. At the '07 Society for Conservation Biology conference next month, I'll be speaking about just that - moving from theory to practice. Allow me to elaborate.. The green and blue planet where we live is a very complicated place. Interactions among species and landscapes impact ecosystems in countless, often unexpected ways. What fascinates me most is that seemingly disparate localized patterns are increasingly connected and predictable as you scale out in space and time. Like an impressionist painting, it might not make sense up close where all the brush strokes are uneven and the colors don't mix, but step back and you find Hidden Order. Keeping complexity in mind, consider EBM. Unfortunately, academia is already inundated with unfriendly acronyms, making it easy to overlook this reasonably good idea. Now traditional management practices have taken a single species approach where scientists study the life history characteristics of one animal and incorporate data into models to predict a maximum sustainable yield (MSY). EBM is different because it includes as many system interactions as possible. Sounds reasonable, right? Simply put, it focuses on cumulative effects of complex relationships and also addresses the human component. Socioeconomic pressures are emphasized so that new initiatives are practical in the real world. It's a holistic scheme rather than dealing with individual species piecemeal. So tell me, does this sound like a novel idea or yet another buzz word for the same old management strategy? And with that, I'm off to Africa..

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