Twenty years ago, a new natural resource management paradigm surfaced in response to a growing loss of faith and trust in both private companies and governments. The so-called ecosystem-based management (EBM) concept was revolutionary in several ways: manage wholes instead of pieces, shared outcomes instead of individual activities, collaborative rather than individual planning, and using natural range of variation knowledge as the basis for all management activities.
The challenge of implementing EBM extends far beyond more research and innovation, and better models. In response, this review offers an alternative, more practical version of EBM as a flexible and shared journey (as opposed to a fixed destination). An EBM journey involves actively supporting and openly sharing science and leading-edge innovation that specifically and deliberately contributes to the advancement of one or more EBM elements.
In service of this goal, this review breaks EBM down into more concrete elements based on a thorough review of the seminal EBM literature and subsequent vetting process. This process identifies a total of 12 practical EBM elements, grouped into four EBM pillars: benchmarks, strategy, partners, and process — each one with three EBM elements. I then suggest several transition options between “No EBM” and “Full EBM” for each of the 12 elements as a way of measuring progress towards an EBM ideal.