ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT AND MOOSE: CREATING A COHERENT CONCEPT WITH FUNCTIONAL MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
Ecosystem management is a popular but poorly defined concept in conservation biology. Current vague, non-operational definitions provoke criticism of the concept and undermine credibility of its associated principles. We propose a definition of ecosystem management that emphasizes essential qualities of the concept rather than its accidental associations or properties, and that explains functional and operational attributes of ecosystem management rather than its descriptive characteristics. Based on these criteria, we offer a definition of ecosystem management as “a pattern of prescribed, goal-oriented environmental manipulations that: (1) treat a specified ecological system of identifiable boundaries as the fundamental unit to be managed; (2) has, as its desired outcome, the achievement of a state or collection of states in the ecosystem such that historical components, structure, function, products, and services of the ecosystem persist within biologically normal ranges and with normal rates of change; (3) uses naturally occurring, landscapescale processes as the primary means of management; and (4) determines management objectives through cooperative decision-making of individuals and groups who reside in, administer, and/or have vested interests in the state of the ecosystem”. Achieving workable ecosystem management is currently hindered by the lack of a unified vision and system of values for ecosystems, the absence of permanent inter-agency bodies with authority to manage ecosystems across multiple jurisdictions, and the lack of administrative mechanisms for the translation of ecosystem research findings into ecosystem management policies. We propose strategies to overcome these obstacles and examine moose (Alces alces) as an example of a species that is both important to ecosystem management and may benefit from it.
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