Land use and management practices do not only have impacts on the land unit itself and the direct land users but also on close or distant neighbours and ecosystems. Impacts include effects on land productivity, on runoff, soil erosion and sedimentation, movements of nutrients and chemicals, contamination by wastes, atmospheric deposits through burning and wind blow, as well as wider effects of floods, drought, landslides and climate change.
To tackle these complex interactions and the necessary consideration of land use practices at a wider scale to address landscape, ecosystem and global dimensions, NRLA works closely with other units of FAO in developing inter-sectoral approaches and addressing the various goods and services provided by the land. FAO follows the recommendations for an integrated approach to the planning and management of land resources and the specific needs identified by Chapter 10 of Agenda 21.
In collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other national and international institutions, FAO has developed an improved framework for land resources development and management that addresses the evolving nature of integrated land management.
An improved approach must ensure:
- development of policies which will result in the best use and sustainable management of land
- improvement and strengthening of planning, management, monitoring and evaluation systems
- strengthening of institutions and coordinating mechanisms
- creation of mechanisms to facilitate the active involvement and participation of communities and people at local level.
The integrated planning and management of land resources approach recognizes that different degrees of participation are dependent on context; however, participation should be interactive to be successful.
The concept of an ecosystem provides a valuable framework for analyzing and acting on the linkages between people and their environment. For that reason, the ecosystem approach has been endorsed by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) conceptual framework is entirely consistent with this approach.
The CBD defines the ecosystem approach as follows: The Ecosystem Approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. Thus, the application of the ecosystem approach will help to reach a balance of the three objectives of the Convention: conservation; sustainable use; and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
An ecosystem approach is based on the application of appropriate scientific methodologies focused on levels of biological organization, which encompass the essential structure, processes, functions and interactions among organisms and their environment. It recognizes that humans, with their cultural diversity, are an integral component of many ecosystems.
According to the CBD, the term ecosystem can refer to any functioning unit at any scale. It does not preclude other management and conservation approaches, such as biosphere reserves, protected areas, and single-species conservation programs, or other approaches carried out under existing national policy and legislative frameworks; rather, it could integrate all these approaches and other methodologies to deal with complex situations. The conceptual framework of the Millennium Assessment provides a useful assessment structure that can contribute to the implementation of the CBD’s ecosystem approach.
The MA conceptual framework is designed to assess the consequences of changes in ecosystems for human well-being. It assumes that the central components of human well-being—including health, the material minimum for a good life, freedom and choice, health, good social relations, and security—can be linked to the status of the environment.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment examines the various services that ecosystems provide and how those services influence human well-being, as well as the forces that have the capacity to alter these services. More specifically, it considers ecosystem services to be the benefits people obtain from ecosystems.
Payments for Environmental Services
The understanding of ecosystem services and their maintenance requires knowledge, organization and management capacities as well as dialogue and negotiation between user groups/stakeholders and incentive mechanisms to make the best use of resources. This includes the need for creating opportunities and developing new markets to finance a more sustainable development for example through benefit sharing mechanisms and Payments for Environmental Services (PES).
This tool can encourage the conservation and enhanced provision of regulating and supporting ecosystem services, the basis for all other types of service. Different policy options for environmental management exist when there is discrepancy between the actual level of environmental quality and the preferred one: "decentralised" policies (liability laws, changes in property rights, voluntary action), "command-and-control" policies (environmental legislation , e.g. environmental standards) and "incentive-based" policies (taxes, subsidies and transferable discharge permit systems - so called "cap and trade" regimes).