AN INNOVATIVE PROTOCOL FOR IMPLEMENTING ECOSYSTEM BASED MANAGEMENT APPLICATIONS
 
INTRODUCTION
     
The practical application of Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) is still a challenging task for relevant stakeholders: availing easy-to-apply operational methodologies can help wide-spreading EBM in land, coastal and marine planning and management applications. EBM paradigm can become even easier to apply for the decision-makers and the professional team involved avail specifically-developed software tools for implementing EBM Decision Support System (EBM-DSS) platforms.
 
In responding to the above needs, PROGES has developed innovative approach for implementing EBM applications. This approach is based on a set of guiding methodological steps (the EBM Protocol) that allows to handle the EBM, a complex multi-stakeholders analytical and planning process, in a simplified way and through a straight-forward steered path, by providing analytical methods and tools based on deterministic rather than statistical ecological assessments. This protocol identifies and quantitatively assesses the relationships between ecosystem components, functions and services, along with the associated human activities, toward the establishment of a multi-stakeholders EBM scheme.
 
The EBM Protocol is composed by the five Steps listed below, which must be applied sequentially when implementing EBM applications.
 

STEP 1 - Preliminary phase: thematic scoping and stakeholders analysis.

 

STEP 2 - Ecosystem Context Analysis: Recognizing connections within and across ecological and human systems spanning over the focused area.

 

STEP 3 - Development of indexes and indicators for the quantitative assessment of EBM social, economic and ecological dynamics.

 

STEP 4 - Data gathering and construction of tabular and GIS databases.

 

STEP 5 - System Cause-Effect-Analysis: Assessment of ecological risks and socio-economic stresses and identification of management interventions.

 
The detailed illustration of how to apply these five steps is provided in this web-page
 
The EBM Protocol is much easier to apply when using the software package Integrated Spatial Planning , specifically developed by PROGES to implement decision support system applications to address planning and management tasks related to complex spatial systems, such as those associated with EBM.
 
STEP 1 - Preliminary phase: thematic scoping and stakeholders analysis
     
1.1 - Objective and rationale
 
The first step of the EBM Protocol aims at defining the spatial and thematic scopes of the EBM application, as well as at identifying key stakeholders, potential partners and their roles in the project. This information help assessing the feasibility and the effort needed to execute the EBM-DSS project.
 
1.2 - Outputs
Tangible outputs Intangible outputs
a)       A text table illustrating the thematic scope of the EBM application (Annex 1 ). c)       The main technical and operational elements to plan for the implementation of the EBM Protocol are identified and organized in simple reports.
b)      A text table which defines roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders within the EBM planning team (Annex 2 ).  
 
1.3 - Methods
 

Spatial and thematic scopes of the EBM project are defined with reference to two main typologies of application cases, as outlined here below:

  

-  a comprehensive EBM application focusing important ecosystems, such as those spanning over a given coastal zone or a marine protected area, and integrating all sectors that impact, or are impacted by, the said ecosystems (Fig. 1.1);

  

-  Managing a set of sector-specific sustainable development dynamics as part of an incremental EBM process. For example, regulating agriculture, aquaculture and fishing activities to avoid conflicts between users (e.g. agricultural and aquaculture drains may contaminate waters in estuaries and/or mangroves, reducing potential fishing catches) and unsustainable pressure to relevant ecosystems (degradation/destruction of habitats in relation to fishing techniques; overfishing (Fig. 1.2).This typology of EBM applications are usually simpler than a comprehensive EBM application and, as such, suits better for items at broader scales.

 

 
The gathering and collation of the information to define on the EBM application spatial and thematic scopes is guided by specially designed matrices (Annex 1 ). Similar matrices also guide the identification and the roles of each the key governmental, non-governmental and civil society stakeholders within the EBM working group (Annex 2 ).
 
1.4 - Operational arrangements
 
Meetings with relevant civil society, governmental and non-governmental organizations are organized to gather the information needed to fill the tables illustrated in Section 1.3. Relevant literature references and data sources start to be collated with the aim of building a knowledge base for the EBM planning team as well as all for the other relevant stakeholders and actors involved in the EBM project. A survey to identify other relevant projects targeting similar conservation and resource-management objectives may also conducted.
 
 
 
 
STEP 2 - Ecosystem Context Analysis: Recognizing connections within and across ecological and human systems spanning over the focused area
     
2.1 - Rationale
 
The Ecosystem Context Analysis is aimed at developing a structural model of the ecosystem components and services, the associated human activities, as well as the interactions between them. It recognizes the key connections within and across the ecological and the human systems spanning over the focused area, so as to provide a manageable framework for understanding how ecosystems, biodiversity and human activities inter-operate in EBM applications.
 
The Ecosystem Context Analysis is a methodological procedure providing straight-forward paths for multi-stakeholder analyses. It allows establishing and managing a participatory analytical process which ensures an effective dialogue between stakeholders from the civil society, the relevant technical and/or scientific organizations, and the concerned administrative institutions toward reaching a common understanding of the relevant EBM context.
 
This procedure is based on deterministic rather than statistical or algorithmic ecological assessments, and leads to the identification and quantitatively assessment of the relationships between ecosystem components, functions and services, along with associated human activities. To this end, a box-and-arrows system diagram is drawn-up to describe the natural and human systems which underlie EBM scenarios by identifying their structural components (boxes in Fig. 1) and their interactions (arrows in Fig. 1). These systems are essentially constituted by: the biotic and abiotic components of the natural ecosystem, the services that ecosystems provide to sustain life, and the uses that human society makes of these services. Each of the diagram elements is in turn further characterized through a set of quantitative indexes and indicators (see STEP 3).
 
 
2.2 - Outputs
Tangible outputs Intangible outputs
a)       System Matrices (Fig. 3): tables listing all structural components of the relevant biophysical and human systems, together with their synthetic descriptions. c)       Stakeholders
  1.     reach a common understanding and management view of how environmental, social and economic considerations fit together in EBM applications;
b)      System box-and-arrows Diagram (Fig. 1): describe the dynamics (arrows) between the biotic and abiotic components (boxes) of the natural ecosystem, the services that ecosystems provide to sustain life (boxes), and the uses that human society makes of these services (boxes). 2.    harmonize their initially different viewpoints within the EBM management planning processes;
  3.    develop a common outlook and a coherent vocabulary which improve the communication among scientific communities, management agencies and the public involved in EBM application. 
 
2.3 - Methods
 
The construction of the system diagram follows a sequential two stages analytical process (Fig. 2) to guide relevant stakeholders in moving from a conceptual (pictures and/or illustrations and/or sketches; system matrixes), to a structural (system box-and-arrows diagram) practical representation of the biological, environmental and socio-economic systems at the basis of the EBM of the relevant spatial domain. This is typically achieved through a set of workshops, usually ranging from one to three depending on the complexity of the given management context.
 
 
 
This process starts with the identification of the major characteristics of the area. This exercise helps the EBM planning team to break the reality down in several management sectors, such as natural resources, agriculture, tourism, fishery and so on. The analysis also includes the identification of the main services provided by the ecosystems of the focused area. The description of each single sector is developed in a set of system matrices, or text-tables where all the components are listed and illustrated, with components possibly comprising one or more sub-components.
 
For example, a system matrix focusing the coastal and marine ecosystem sector of a given EBM application could include the components that give a synoptic representation of such sector (wetlands, karstic system, beaches and sand dunes, rocky coast, coral reef and marine prairies in the example of Fig. 3). The sub-components that further describe the wetland could be: mangroves, coastal lagoons and estuaries; similarly, the marine prairies component may include mixed-prairies, single-species dominated prairies, sandy sea bottom and rocky sea bottom as sub-components. The system matrix also includes a brief description of all the components and sub-components there listed, with circumstantial or local information included if available. Otherwise the description, albeit more generic, would still serve as a record of the common view that the EBM planning team has developed on the actual socio-ecosystem realities that the various components represent.
 
The last analytical item to be included in the system matrix is a brief description of the key ecological or social mechanisms which regulate the interaction between the components and sub-components identified in the very matrix; an example of interactions could be the influence of the karstic system on the water quantitative and qualitative parameters of the wetland component.
 

 
In the second analytical stage of the Ecosystem Context Analysis, the EBM planning team further develops its collective understanding of the EBM scenario described in the system matrices and transposes it into a diagram (Fig.4). All the components and sub-components defined in each of the matrices are initially drawn in a system diagram as box items; the hierarchical structure of components and related sub-components is represented by drawing the boxes representing the latter into those representing the previous. Once all components and sub components of the matrix have been drawn in the system diagram, the information reported in the matrix to describe the interactions between the components and sub-components is used to draw the initial set of links (arrows) between relevant components (boxes) of the diagram.
 

 
At this stage of development, the system-diagram is not providing any additional information other than that already included in the system-matrix. However, this new diagrammatic representation of the same information can help to identify possible inconsistencies and/or incompleteness of the model, either in the definition of components and sub-components (the “structure” of the system being studied) or in their interconnections (the dynamics of the given system, that is the way different components interact).
 
The EBM planning team can then work to adjust this basic diagram to solve inconsistencies and remove incompleteness, through a step-by-step iterative process leading to the construction of a strong-structured system diagram modelling the biophysical and human system at the basis of the given EBM application.
 
An example of how a system matrix can be used to develop a strongly-structured system box-end-arrow diagram is available in Annex 3.
 
2.4 - Operational arrangements
 
The analytical stages of the Ecosystem Context Analysis are typically executed in two consecutive workshops involving the entire EBM planning team (see STEP 1). This workshops lasts two or three days depending of the complexity of the given EBM context, and are executed allowing for a four to six weeks interval between them.
 
STEP 3 - Development of indexes and indicators for the quantitative assessment of EBM social, economic and ecological dynamics
     
3.1 - Objective and rationale
 
The third Step of the protocol for implementing EBM applications focuses the development of a set of indexes and indicators for the quantitative assessment of the structural components and dynamics of the EBM reference systems as they have been defined through the Ecosystem Context Analysis.
 
In practical terms, a set of indexes and/or indicators is attached to each of the boxes (structural components) and, if needed,  the arrows (dynamics between components) of the System Diagram with the aim of providing a mean for assessing the status and trends of the environmental, social or economic dynamics which the various boxes and arrows represent. For example, the System Diagram component “coral reef habitat” could be characterized though the richness of coral fish species trend (see Fig. 5).
 
 
3.2 - Outputs
 
Tangible outputs Intangible outputs
a)       Arrays of indicators attached to each item of the System box-and-arrows Diagram. b)      Scientific, technical, administrative and civil-society stakeholders avail a common list of indicators tailor-made to the specificities of the given EBM context.
 
3.3 - Methods
 
Methods and examples for developing effective indexes and indicators to characterize social, economic and environmental dynamics are extensively available in relevant technical and scientific literature and, thus, there is no need for a detailed illustration of such methods in this reference protocol for implementing EBM applications.
 
Nevertheless, it is worth to recall here some important items to be considered when developing the list of indicators for a given EBM application.
 

  the evaluation of an environmental problem;

Indicators are used to describe, inform and evaluate; from an environmental perspective indicators provide an effective tool for:

  the monitoring of management decisions and results.

  the identification of the environmental pressures and threats;

 

Indicators should be:

  representative;

  measurable;

  efficient;

  easy to understand;

  able to show spatial distribution and time trends of the focused social, economic or environmental dynamic;

  sensitive to changes.

 

Indicators should also serve to:

  evaluate processes and environmental conditions according to the given objective;

  monitor the efficiency of management actions;

  compare different sites and different situations;

  assess future situations and scenarios.

When describing a given indicator, a minimal set of attributes should be defined as follows:

  the name or label of the indicator;

  the component or dynamics (box or arrow in the System Diagram) of the social, economic and environmental systems involved in the EBM application to which the indicators is to be associated;

  a short narrative description, illustrating such issues as the rationale of the indicators, how it should be used, and the unit/method for its evaluation;

  the source of data for its evaluation;

  the recommended frequency for its update.

3.4 - Operational arrangements
 
The development of indicators can be either assigned to a team of sector experts/consultants or executed during a dedicated two or three days workshop involving EBM stakeholders and technical sector experts as well. The second option, however, may be considered more effective as it also help to increase the understanding and ownership of the EBM process by the local stakeholders.
STEP 4 - Data gathering and construction of tabular and GIS databases
     
4.1 - Objective and rationale
 
Data are collected from different sources to allow the evaluation of the indexes and indicators defined in STEP 3. These data should be primarily sourced from the databases of the various institutions in charge of the monitoring and/or management of the social, economic and environmental EBM dynamics associated to the various elements of the system diagram. Useful data can usually be extracted also from technical reports and scientific papers.
 
The gathered data should then be integrated in two inter-linked tabular and GIS databases, to be designed and implemented according to relevant technical standards (see also 4.3 below).
 
The above mentioned databases can be managed be integrated within the Integrated Spatial Planning  software package to implement a full-fledged EBM decision support system (EBM-DSS). This EBM-DSS provides user-friendly and effective tools for the display, synthesis and analysis of time trends and spatial patterns of the indexes and indicators developed through STEP 3 and STEP 4.
 
4.2 - Outputs
 
Tangible outputs Intangible outputs
a)       Tabular and GIS databases to manage the datasets for the above-mentioned indicators. c)       Stakeholders:
b)      EBM-DSS software application linked to the said databases: 1.       avail a common template for analyzing EBM social, economic and ecological dynamics;
1.    real-time analysis of indicators’ spatial distribution and time trends (maps, tables, charts); 2.       through the EBM-DSS software, can quickly browse and easily analyses the extensive datasets involved in EBM applications. 
2.    compilation of data-aware advanced reports. 3.       through the EBM-DSS software, can collectively draft simple but comprehensive reporting material on the EBM planning process.
 
4.3 - Methods
 
Better that at the direct acquisition of the needed datasets, data collection activity should be targeted at establishing data sharing protocols between the various organizations which hold the said datasets and the institution responsible for the implementation of the EBM. This is mainly because EBM applications involve a wide array of thematic sectors and require large datasets. It is thus better to rely on the different institutions which have the institutional mandate to generate a given dataset rather than centralizing the data generation process. This approach also facilitates the regular updating of the various datasets.
 
The data collected are integrated in two inter-linked tabular and GIS relational-databases.
 

 
4.4 - Operational arrangements
 

The organization and implementation of data collection campaigns is evidently dependent on both the actual data needs as well as on the local institutional framework.

Specific forms can be prepared to guide the personnel involved in the data collection activities, as well as to keep track of the progress; an example of these forms is available in Annex 4 .

 
STEP 5 - System Cause-Effect-Analysis: Assessment of ecological risks and socio-economic stresses and identification of management interventions
     
5.1 - Objective and rationale
 
The System Cause-Effect Analysis is aimed to identify in a systematic manner all possible significant cause-effect relationships between the different components of the EBM system, as captured in the boxes-and-arrows system diagrams resulting from STEP 2. These cause-effect relationships are assessed though quantitative methods through the indexes and indicators associated with the different items of the boxes-and-arrows system diagram in the execution of STEP 3 and STEP 4.
 
5.2 - Outputs
 
Tangible outputs Intangible outputs
Quantitative integrated assessment of:  f)        Stakeholders develop and avail a shared understanding of ecological risks and socio-economic stress.
a)       the conservation status of the biotic and abiotic components of the natural ecosystem (e.g. favorable/unfavorable); 1.       EBM measures are: coherent with the EBM approach; directly drafted by the stakeholders.
b)      the use of ecosystem services (e.g. untapped-potential/ sustainable use/overexploitation);  
c)       livelihood levels (e.g.   adequate/inadequate; increasing/decreasing).  
d)      An integrated set of EBM measures directly derived from (and targeted) to the relevant components of the ecological and human system (or interaction between them).  
e)      A structured indicator framework to monitor the EBM performance.  
 
5.3 - Methods
 
The System Cause-Effect Analysis is a straight forward procedure aimed at defining an integrated set of management measures coherent with the EBM principles. It is based on the same conceptual approach and builds upon the outcomes of the Ecosystem Context Analysis executed in the previous STEP 3. It is a very simple process that systemically analyses all the elements of the boxes-and-arrows system diagram developed through the Ecosystem Context Analysis of STEP 2 by means of the indexes and indicators defined in STEP 3 and evaluated in STEP 4.
 
The process for executing the System Cause-Effect Analysis is illustrated in Fig 5.1; it considers systematically pairs of components of the said diagram to: i) assess the conservation and/or development status of the pair’s components and their interaction; ii) estimate the current level of use, of overexploitation, or of untapped-potential of the relevant ecosystem services; iii) use these assessments and estimates to identify management measures targeted to the sustainable use of the ecosystem services.
 
 
Following this procedure, each of the identified management measure responds to the conservation and/or sustainable development needs pertaining to the components’ pair to which it is associated; this is because these needs are identified as those ensuring the sustainability to the socio-ecological interaction between the very pair of components. When moving to the following step of the analysis, i.e. to that of other pairs of components to identify a new management measure, possible side-effects of the previous measure are inevitably considered when the analyzed pair includes one of the two components of the previous pair. The systematic execution of the above analyses throughout all the elements of the boxes-and-arrows system diagram (which represents stakeholders’’ common understanding and management view of how environmental, social and economic considerations fit together in EBM applications) ensures that the resulting set of management measures is coherent with the changes in management practices which characterize EBM: (1) each human activity is managed in the context of ALL the ways it interacts with ecosystems, and (2) multiple activities are being managed for a common outcome.
 
Baseline and target for assessing the performances in the implementation of these management measures can be defined using the same set of indicators worked out in STEP 3.
 
The sequential use of the Ecosystem Context Analysis and the System Cause-Effect Analysis methods facilitates the establishment of an EBM paradigm, effectively integrating management actions across multiple sectors and institutions at different geographical scales. The system matrices and the system diagrams “force” stakeholders to analyze systemically relevant ecological and socio-economic dynamics; then, through the System Cause-Effect Analysis, the very stakeholders can assess systematically each elemental component of the said social and ecological systems. In turn, the arrows of the system diagram drive the stakeholders through a similar itemized assessment of social, economic and ecological interactions between these elemental components. This analytical pattern allows the stakeholders to decompose the complex ecological and social dynamics into a structured set of simple elements and, thus, to identify all possible relations, interactions or conflicts between them. This work on a simple decomposed reality helps them to develop a common attitude and a shared vision toward the management of the given spatial domain, thus removing one of the main barriers hampering the communication among scientific communities, management agencies and the public involved in EBM application. The Ecosystem Context Analysis and the System Cause-Effect Analysis methods have indeed been applied in a variety of ecosystems, and have always proven easy-to-apply and extremely effective in ensuring that all relevant stakeholders reach a collective understanding and a shared view of how environmental, social and economic considerations fit together in ecosystem-based management applications (Fig. 5.2).
 
 
An example of the outcomes of the System Cause-Effect Analysis is presented in Annex 5 .
 
5.4 - Operational arrangements
 
The System Cause-Effect Analysis is typically executed in one workshop involving the entire EBM planning team (see STEP 1). This workshop lasts two or three days depending of the complexity of the given EBM context.
 
The use of the Integrated Spatial Planning  software package makes the execution of the System Cause-Effect Analysis much easier and faster, de facto allowing for its execution in a single workshop involving all stakeholders of the EBM application rather than through longer and less effective process.
 
Using the enables the Integrated Spatial Planning  software allows the easy and effective retrieval of all the data integrated in the two inter-linked databases resulting from STEP 4. Effective analyses of spatial distribution and time trends of the indicators defined through STEP 3 can be easily executed via a multi-windows user friendly interface; the software also allows the compilation of data-aware advanced reports (such as that presented in Annex 5 ). The main window of the software shows maps, tables or charts, system diagrams, and a space for notes, comments or a report draft (Fig. 5.3). It gives the opportunity to visualize different kind of data and information with the view to compare the various system components targeted by a possible management action. The software also includes a tool (hyperlink) that automatically links the name of the components in a report to the components shown in the EBM-DSS, as well as their related maps, tables or charts, in order to support the decision-making process (Fig. 5.4).