Healthy marine and coastal ecosystems provide valuable services - from food security, resources for economic growth and recreation alongside tourism and coastline protection. Among the most productive ecosystems on the planet, oceans and coasts ensure the well-being for a growing global population, which is likely to rise to over nine billion by 2050. They regulate global climate and offer essential adaptation capacity.
The future role of ecosystems for human well-being depends increasingly on developing the capacity of countries to manage human uses and impacts in order to ensure their health and self-repairing capacity is not undermined. Central to a transformational response to decades of overfishing, pollution and unplanned urban development will be moving from sectoral marine and coastal management, to a joined approach that marries the seemingly competing interests for ocean and coastal resources and space, such as environment, tourism, fisheries and energy generation, within a robust framework and a spatial planning perspective. This is central to ensuring equitable access among diverse interests and users.
The ecosystem approach lays out a series of principles to guide management towards long-term sustainability of marine and coastal ecosystems. With this new guide on Marine and Coastal Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM), UNEP seeks to assist countries and communities to take steps towards making marine and coastal ecosystem-based management operational - from strategic planning to on-site implementation. It has three main sections:
1: Making the case for EBM - Why and how is change necessary?
2: Examining the core elements of EBM
3: Moving towards EBM: Visioning - Planning - Implementation
The Guide outlines operational considerations in an accessible language, drawing upon practical experiences and lessons across the globe - from tropical coastlines to temperate estuaries and polar ocean ecosystems. An important message is that this is an incremental process and there are different paths toward EBM. Cross boundary considerations and working with neighbours and even countries far away will be an essential component.
The target audience of the Guide includes planners and decision-makers in local, national and regional governments and communities across a broad spectrum of interests and uses. The Guide is not a technical manual or textbook, rather it is an introduction to EBM principles and 'thinking', and provides an overview of core elements and pathways to getting started.
This guide is intended to complement UNEP's work, such as the Green Economy providing guidance on making changes in the way we interact with ecosystems, as well as the Blue Carbon Initiative, which explores the potential for mitigating climate change by investing and re-investing in healthy coastal ecosystems that capture and store carbon. Moreover, good EBM offers a valuable solution for harnessing marine and coastal ecosystems in adapting to climate change and other potential disasters.