A new publication from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) applies a reader-friendly approach to help countries and communities move toward ecosystem-based management of oceans and coasts. Drawing on practical experience and lessons from around the world, the guide serves as an introduction to EBM principles and applications, and provides an overview of the general phases involved. In addition to its text-based advice, the guide's multiple diagrams explain the core elements of EBM in a simple visual way, such as the concepts of cumulative impacts and managing for multiple objectives.

The 68-page publication Taking Steps toward Marine and Coastal Ecosystem-Based Management: An Introductory Guide emphasizes that EBM can be implemented incrementally rather than as one big push. Quotes from experienced EBM practitioners are sprinkled throughout, offering first-hand advice on planning and implementation.

The guide was co-authored by multiple individuals with ties to MEAM: Tundi Agardy (MEAM contributing editor), John Davis (MEAM editor-in-chief), and Kristin Sherwood (MEAM editorial board member), together with Ole Vestergaard of the Marine and Coastal Ecosystems Branch of UNEP's Division for Environmental Policy Implementation. Its principal target audience is practitioners in the UNEP Regional Seas Programme. However, the guide is also expected to be of help to a wider audience, including planners and decision-makers on all government levels and across multiple sectors – fisheries, transportation, tourism, environmental management, and more.

Explaining what EBM as a concept is fundamentally about

The authors see a need for simple information on ecosystem-based management, relatively free of the jargon that too often invades EBM discussions. Agardy cites a story illustrating this. "A couple of years ago, I gave a presentation on EBM to an audience of practitioners whom I knew had been directed to do EBM for quite some time," she says. "My very basic introduction to EBM was so elementary, I expected it to cover ground the audience had heard countless times before. But afterward, several people approached me to say it was the first time they really understood what EBM as a concept was fundamentally about."

"This guide is really a primer on EBM," says Richard Kenchington, an advisor to UNEP on marine management and governance. "It is intended to help people explore the issues and possible solutions for the problems they see in their marine areas. It is not a 'one-size-fits-all' or 'how-to' manual in the sense of providing a complete turnkey approach. The idea is to describe a menu from which people can identify approaches that should work in their situation, and follow on from there."

"An important message in this guide is that there are many different paths to EBM," says co-author Vestergaard. "The paths can build on and integrate existing management efforts across sectors, adding key EBM principles into broader planning and implementation processes."

UNEP will use the guide in future national and regional marine and coastal planning assistance, including training programs and pilot projects. The guide will also support related UNEP work such as ecosystem-based adaptation, the Green Economy (providing guidance on changing the ways that humans interact with ecosystems, with EBM playing a key role), and the Blue Carbon Initiative (highlighting the capacity of healthy coastal ecosystems to sequester carbon dioxide).

The guide is available for free. To download, go to: http://unep.org/publications/contents/pub_details_search.asp?ID=6200.