Ecosystem analysis: Understanding Complex Ecosystems

Eco Education

Ecosystem analysis (EFA) was originally developed for monitoring rangelands for the purpose of sustainable development and maintenance of biodiversity. More recently, the method was adapted for use in other disturbed landscapes, such as mine sites. Ecosystem function analysis can give reliable information on the effects of stress and disturbance on any landscape, from deserts to tropical rainforests.

It is made up of three modules-landscape function analysis (LFA), vegetation composition and dynamics, habitat complexity.

The biosphere has been composed of a number of highly complex ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, oceans, estuaries, deserts etc. These ecosystems have gone under threat over the years due to intensive human pressure of serious pollutions, habitats destructions, land, water bodies, wetlands and coastal zones reclamations and so on. These activities have been threatening bio diversities and physical structures of many complex ecosystems and have been causing serious upsets in the systems-balance.

The human activities of modifications of various complex ecosystems of the earth have affected vast majority of natural resources of the earth. The increasing demand for resources for development, growing levels of poverty, urban congestions are some of the changes that press on us to go beyond classic approaches of conservation and to incorporates humans and working landscapes more directly in all the efforts of conservation. It should be demonstrated in projects that not only do ecosystem-service approaches engage new landscapes, stakeholders, and funding sources, but that, they do so without neglecting traditional biodiversity goals and the traditional approaches of protection and preservation.

Worldwide population and economic growth put an increasing pressure on fresh water, coastal and marine environments. Concurrently, the benefits humans derive from these ecosystems are recognized and need to be maintained. Integrated Ecosystem Analysis aims to develop and assess methods to sustainably embed human activities in a healthy (i.e., well-functioning) ecosystem, while protecting and strengthening ecosystem services. This can be achieved through an integral, interdisciplinary approach. For this, there should be a thorough understanding of ecosystem functioning, the interaction between organisms and their physical living environment. This knowledge and practical experiences should be used to assist industry, policy makers, regulatory agencies and NGOs in addressing environmental issues in fresh water, marine, coastal and estuarine environments. 

Scientists through long and persistent observations and researches have found a number of indicators including critical and state variables that indicate the potential threats to ecosystems rooted in human activities. The Ecosystem Management attempts to integrate sustainable ecological, economic and social goals in a unified system approach. This new philosophy of effective management and conservation of complex ecosystems is based on certain principles that have been mentioned below –

•         Management of landscapes, watersheds, and ecological regions   

•         Promotion of Sustainable Economic Development in view of human needs  

•         Maintaining biological diversity and essential ecosystem processes

•         Utilisation of cooperative institutional arrangements

•         Establishment of stakeholder- public involvement and facilitation of collective decision-making process   

•         Management is to be based on conscious experimentation and routine monitoring

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